The Solid Rock Carriers CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour will be without one of its most recognizable faces this weekend at Hickory Motor Speedway in Josh Berry, who will instead be competing at Dominion Raceway on Saturday.
Berry, who previously won the CARS LMSC Tour championship back in 2017, said the circumstances that have played out so far this year convinced him to step away from full-time competition in the division and instead focus on the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series title.
“We’ve been racing at Hickory a lot, mainly because it’s the only place that’s running right now,” Berry said. “I’m out of contention in the CARS Tour points, so we all just figured that we try something different and I feel like we have a decent shot at [the national championship.]”
After starting the 2020 CARS LMSC Tour season with a solid fourth place run at Southern National Motorsports Park, Berry’s hopes for a second title unraveled in the Race at Ace 125 when he was turned around in Turn 3 following contact between him and Bobby McCarty on restart.
Already upset from a previous collision that occurred between the two of them at Motor Mile Speedway in 2019, Berry responded by spinning McCarty into the inside retaining wall while the latter was leading, which resulted in Berry being disqualified from the race and a one-race suspension for him.
Berry served his suspension during the third race of the season at Hickory, where he has spent most of his race weekends at after an executive order by N.C. governor Roy Cooper moved the state into Phase One of reopening and enabled the facility to resume operations.
“Our season has gone pretty well so far,” Berry said. “We’ve finished every race inside the Top 3, but I’ve really enjoyed racing at Hickory in general. It’s close to home and I’m thankful that they’ve been racing this whole time, but we’re just taking things week-to-week at this point.”
The 2014 Late Model champion at Hickory quickly reasserted his authority during the track’s first race back from the COVID-19 pandemic on May 16, as he secured easy victories in the 51 lap twin races, which featured several former title holders in Matt Piercy, Austin McDaniel, Ryan Millington and others.
Berry has since gone on to claim five more wins during the 2020 season at Hickory and currently sits a distance fourth in the point standings to Millington, Thomas Beane and Mason Ludwig despite competing on a part-time basis at the track.
While Berry believes that his strong performances at Hickory have made him a contender for the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series title, he will not know for sure until the sanctioning body releases the official point standings, which Berry hopes will be done at some point in the near future.
Until Berry gets clarification on where he ranks in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series, he plans to keep racing at Hickory and to compete against the best Late Model drivers on the East Coast by travelling to several different facilities.
“I’ve never competed for a national championship before and it’s complicated in its own way,” Berry said. “We have to win a lot at places that have good car counts, so if we can keep winning the way we are against strong fields, then I think we’ll be up towards the front.”
Berry will have a major test in his path towards the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series title on Saturday night at Dominion Raceway, as he will have to do battle against a stout field that features 2005 champion Peyton Sellers and 2016 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner Mike Looney.
Berry has not ruled out running more CARS LMSC Tour races later in the season, but added that his schedule in the division will likely be determined by how well he performs in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series over the next couple of months.