Defending CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour champion Josh Berry entered the 2018 Do the Dew 150 as one of the heavy favorites in a talent-packed entry list to win the series-record $10,000 winning purse. The Hendersonville, Tennessee native entered the event having won the last two CARS LMSC Tour races at the half-mile short track, including a thrilling victory in the 2017 race in which he edged Garrett Campbell to the line in a photo finish.
Berry’s quest for a third consecutive victory got off to a promising start, as he secured the pole for the Late Model feature by laying down a track record lap of 16.097. Berry held onto the lead for seven laps until Timothy Peters took it away from him on the eighth lap of the race, which forced Berry to log laps and conserve his tires as he waited for the right opportunity to challenge for the lead.
On the 58th lap of the race, disaster struck for Berry, as he encountered a mechanical problem on his #88 JR Motorsports Late Model which forced him to stop his car at the exit of Turn 2, which brought out a caution. CARS Tour officials did not take kindly to Berry intentionally bringing out the caution, and penalized him one lap, which put Berry in a whole that he was unable to get out of.
“We stopped on the track,” Berry said. “I really didn’t know that was a penalty but we probably deserved it. We had an issue with the upper control arm coming loose or something from the load or something. I could hardly drive it so I stopped like I said. I think the penalty fit the crime.”
Berry would spend the rest of the race attempting to stay with the leaders, while simultaneously hoping to catch a break in order to have a chance at eventual race-winner Bobby McCarty. The end of the second stage would turn into a bad break for Berry, as McCarty put Trevor Ward a lap down only a few laps prior to the competition caution, which granted Ward the free pass and left Berry stuck in the back of the pack one lap down.
At the start of the third stage, Berry found himself in a tight battle with McCarty’s teammate Brandon Pierce for the free pass position. After falling behind during the early portion of the stage, Berry rallied himself back up through the field, and was able to track down and pass Pierce for position, which allowed Berry to get back on the lead lap and have a chance at a good finish.
“We rode it out for a long time in the second segment,” Berry said. “Was really hoping for a caution to get the lucky dog and never got that. By the time the caution came out for the next segment, the leader had started lapping more cars so we could just never get the lucky dog so towards the end we decided to save tires for the last segment. We ended up racing the #2 car who had tires and I didn’t have tires and I was just doing everything I could to hold him off.”
When the green flag dropped for the final stage of the day, Berry began to knock off some of his fastest laps of the day, as he quickly worked his way through the field and found himself in the Top 10 with less than 15 laps to go. Berry continued to pass cars as the laps gradually dwindled, and would end up securing a fifth place finish after passing fellow Late Model veteran Deac McCaskill with only a few laps remaining.
Berry’s perseverance gave him an early jump on drivers that he will be competing against in the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour championship, including Layne Riggs, who battled with Berry throughout the course of the 2017 season, as well as four-time Whelen All-American Series champion Lee Pulliam. Berry admitted that he was frustrated with how the day went, but was satisfied with securing a strong finish to begin the year.
“We kind of saw this similar thing last year. I made a lot of speed late on the top. This time we didn’t catch the caution. Sometimes you do sometimes you don’t. Damn we were close. A caution and things might have been different. To come back and finish 5th in a stout field with the day we had, I’ll take it.”
Berry will have a chance to improve upon his strong start to the 2018 season when the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour travels to Myrtle Beach Speedway for the BakerDist.com 200 presented by Honeywell. Berry has one prior CARS LMSC Tour win at Myrtle Beach that came during the 2016 season, but is also entering the race as the defending champion of the Myrtle Beach 400.