ALTAMAHAW, NC– Despite his involvement in two separate incidents during the night, Josh Berry executed one of the best performances of his career on Friday night at Ace Speedway, winning The Race At Ace 125 for the CARS Late Model Stock Tour. It was Berry’s 15th career victory in the series and an emotional one after his car owner, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., lost his mother just over a week prior.
In Hedgecock Pole Qualifying, Ryan Millington rocketed to the fast time award, the first of his CARS Late Model Stock Tour career. The youngster led the opening handful of circuits but was challenged early on restarts.
Three laps into the race, the caution flew for Trevor Ward’s smoking car, but at the exact moment the caution was called, Justin Carroll and Layne Riggs made contact, leading to a five-car pileup involving Berry, Tommy Lemons, Taylor Gray, Sammy Smith, and Jason York. Although damaged, all drivers except York were able to eventually continue. Carroll brought out the next caution six laps later when a loose wheel eventually separated itself from the car, causing him to spin in turn two.
Bobby McCarty took the lead from Ryan Millington on lap nine and appeared to be in the same form he was one year prior at Ace where he led nearly every lap en route to victory.
On a lap 30 restart, Zack St. Onge apparently missed a shift, a mistake which led the field to fan out and subsequently multiple competitors made contact in the first turn, leading to a multi-car incident where Brandon Pierce impacted the outside wall. Leland Honeyman, Jr., was also involved, ramping his machine over the entire right rear quarter panel of Josh Berry before also making contact with the concrete which ultimately ended his night.
A slew of additional minor cautions occurred through the middle stages of the race (laps 38, 55, 57, and 89) but Bobby McCarty continued to set the pace over his closest pursuer, Deac McCaskill, who shadowed the No. 22 for most of the event. Despite his issues early, Josh Berry worked his way up to third and passed McCaskill on lap 76 before chasing down leader McCarty under green.
The caution for Taylor Gray and Mini Tyrrell’s encounter on lap 89 set up a pivotal restart for McCarty and Berry within sight of the finish. As the field raced into turn three, Berry eased into McCarty’s rear bumper, moved him up the racetrack and stole the preferred line as the field raced into turn one. Following additional contact, Berry emerged as the leader and quickly opened up a sizeable advantage of Deac McCaskill who also bypassed McCarty during the same sequence.
Even a late-race caution for a single-car spin on lap 103 could not slow down Berry. He extended his lead to 2.421 seconds in the final 22 laps and handily beat Ryan Millington, McCaskill, McCarty, and his JR Motorsports teammate Adam Lemke to the stripe.
“At the beginning, when we got turned around, that wasn’t good,” Berry said in Edelbrock Victory Lane. “But, man, I felt calm. I could tell early on we had a good car, we just didn’t get a good qualifying lap.”
Before climbing out of the car, Berry pointed to the roof of the car where a memorial decal was placed in remembrance of his car owner’s late mother, Brenda Jackson, who passed away just over a week prior. He then shared how important she was in his racing career.
“It’s obviously been a long week for everyone at JR Motorsports with the passing of Brenda,” he said while visibly holding back some emotion. “Willie and Brenda are a large part of why I’m here. Ten years ago when I moved here to drive late models, they let me live at their house for like two months. Without them, and their hospitality doing that, I might not be here today. It’s just been a long week for everyone this week. Dale, Kelley, L.W., I know they’ve been going through a lot so this one’s for them.
“This has been a place we’ve struggled a little bit, but I don’t know, I guess we just figured it out tonight,” he continued. “There were a couple little things we were able to work on and make our car better. I think, for me, it had such a feel like Martinsville [last year] where I could get it turned and point it straight to come right off the bottom. It was just a matter of time until we kept picking them off and picking them off. I wanna thank the good Lord above that we didn’t get caught up in a lot of trouble when we were back there in the back. We were able to sneak through it, there, and miss the big one on the front stretch because it was a bad situation and I didn’t know which way to go.”
The win, coupled with the misfortune of his closest two-point pursuers Taylor Gray and Brandon Pierce, extended Berry’s point lead entering race five of the tour at Motor Mile Speedway on May 18. The CARS Super Late Model Tour will also be in action in yet another twin-bill race format, and the tour’s first visit to southwestern Virginia since its inaugural season in 2015.
For more information on the CARS Tour, visit their website at CARSRacingTour.com, or follow them on Facebook (@CARSTour), Twitter (@CARSTour), Instagram (@cars_tour), and Snapchat (@carstour). The series also has its own YouTube channel, Roku channel (available through its TV website), and a new Amazon FireTV app released this week.