TRACK CHAMPION CAPTURES CARS TOUR LATE MODEL VICTORY
Berry, Smith net wins in CARS Tour twinbill at Motor Mile Speedway – JW Martin
It was his first CARS Late Model Stock Tour win in his first-career start. But it wasn’t Josh Berry’s first rodeo.
Veteran savvy trumped raw talent Saturday night, as the 2012 Motor Mile Speedway NASCAR WHELEN All-American Series track champion’s vast experience at the .416-mile oval propelled him to victory lane in the Food Country USA 250 presented by Heritage Truck Centers.
“This is a tough racetrack; a lot of people struggled tonight… good cars, because they don’t have many laps around here. When it came down to the end, [experience] really helped. Our car ran really good… and ran really good on the apron, which is something Lee Pulliam does a lot. So we had a good car,” chuckled Berry. “That was fun.”
Hosted by the CARS Tour Late Model / Super Late Model traveling series, the chaotically climactic opener stole the spotlight from the Super Late Model headliners. The 125-lap Late Model feature was plagued by a plethora of cautions; eight yellow flags unfurled during the course the contest, including two cautions involving two different leaders.
After pacing the opening 47 circuits, pole-sitter Deac McCaskill and Motor Mile Speedway mainstay Tommy Lemons, Jr. tangled while dueling for the lead exiting turn two, brandishing the fourth caution flag of the race.
The turn two incident was the culmination of a 27-lap bout between the pair of frontrunners. Marching to McCaskill’s back bumper from his fourth-place starting position by lap 20, Lemons patiently stalked McCaskill’s lead machine, attempting repeated fleeting maneuvers from the bottom groove of the track. Committed topside, McCaskill was successfully staving off Lemons’ superior car when, exiting turn two, the duo converged over the same section of real estate.
McCaskill’s no. 08 snapped sideways following contact to the left rear quarter panel, subsequently careening into the inside retaining wall down the backstretch. The dustup relegated McCaskill to the garage with a twentieth-place finish; Lemons soldiered on to finish nineteenth, 20 laps down.
“It was just hard racing, you know? Two people battling for the lead right there, and we just got together. That’s all I can chalk it up to… just racing,” Lemons explained.
Berry inherited the lead on the restart, only to surrender it to Brayton Haws on the following circuit. The CARS Late Model Stock Tour points leader entering the night, Haws had charged from a twelfth-place starting position to eclipse Berry for first on lap 48. Haws paced the succeeding 50 laps with Berry in close pursuit.
In command of first, Haws ushered in the sixth caution of the race after a right front tire failure on lap 91. Again, it was Berry assuming the point.
On the ensuing restart, Berry encountered a new challenger in the form of 14-year-old Todd Gilliland. The son of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver David Gilliland, the young upstart became the fourth different leader of the contest on lap 99, pacing the race for the next 15 circuits. The eighth and final yellow flag period of the night on lap 113 staged a 12-lap dash to the checkers, with Gilliland leading Berry to the restart.
Eyeing his second CARS Late Model Stock Tour victory of the season, Gilliland had been impressive in his first-ever start at Motor Mile Speedway. But Berry would be perfect.
The restart sparked a tense two-lap skirmish for the lead, with Gilliland operating from the low lane. Pinned to the top groove in a conventionally disadvantaged position, Berry out-muscled Gilliland, reclaiming the top spot on lap 115.
The outcome of the spirited battle proved to be the pass for the win.
“The restarts were a really big deal,” Gilliland acknowledged. “On the last one, I didn’t do it perfect. And that’s what it took to beat Josh Berry. He had a perfect restart.”
It felt like the car had a lot of speed in it,” continued Gilliland. “It was a lot of fun racing with him side-by-side.”
Myatt Snider rounded out the podium, with Jamie Caudill and Doug Barnes, Jr. rounding out the top five.
Rookie Zane Smith emerged the winner of the 125-lap Super Late Model nightcap following a similar late-race restart. Smith wrangled the lead away from William Byron two circuits after the fourth and final caution period of the race on lap 116, pacing the remaining seven laps uncontested en route to victory lane.
Byron placed second, with Lucas Ransone rounding out the podium.