Jonathan Findley makes a lap around Orange County Speedway during practice for the Mid-Atlantic Classic on Saturday afternoon. (Photo: Andy Newsome)

The LMSC feature of the Mid-Atlantic Classic at Orange County Speedway began in bizarre fashion when CARS LMSC Tour points leader Josh Berry lost an engine while leading on Lap 3, which triggered a multi-car pileup that involved drivers such as Deac McCaskill, Layne Riggs and Brandon Pierce.

Bristow, Virginia native Jonathan Findley was one of a handful of drivers to escape the accident completely unscathed, and was able to maintain the track position he had obtained as a result of his competitors’ misfortune to bring home a career-best finish of third in his family-owned Late Model.

Findley’s best finish in the CARS LMSC Tour prior to Saturday evening was an 11th-place showing in the MTP Tire 300 at Hickory Motor Speedway earlier this year, but he is optimistic that his performance in the Mid-Atlantic Classic will serve as a major turning point for his team.

“We’ve struggled all year,” Findley said. “We’ve gotten in wrecks by being in spots that we shouldn’t have been in, and we’ve blown a lot of motors as well. We did not have a Top 3 car tonight, but we definitely benefitted from the circumstances that played out and got that third place finish.”

When cars were finally able to hit the track for practice after a brief morning shower, Findley struggled to break away from the middle of the pack and would ultimately start the Mid-Atlantic Classic from the 12th position after posting a time of 14.486 in qualifying.

Findley had barely made any progress through the field when Berry’s engine expired at the front of the pack, but he stated that the decision to stay conservative and back out of a heated battle is what likely prevented him from slipping in the oil and bringing his night to a premature end.

“On Lap 2, I saw some guys four-wide in front of me and I just backed out of it,” Findley said. “It was a crazy experience. I’ve never been behind someone who lost a motor like that before, but jumping on the brakes is one of the worst decisions people make in that situation. It was definitely scary.”

CARS Tour officials spent several minutes sorting out the running order after nearly every single car in the Top 10 sustained damage in the Lap 3 crash, with timing and scoring putting Findley at the front of the field, while Justin Carroll and Bobby McCarty followed him in second and third respectively.

Carroll and McCarty both passed Findley on the ensuing restart, which left him to deal with several other drivers looking for career-best finishes along with those looking to get back to the front after the melee like McCaskill, Pierce and Sammy Smith.

Smith would get by Findley on another restart with a handful of laps remaining, but handling issues for Carroll enabled Findley to get back by him and hold on to the third position up until the checkered flag was displayed.

Findley admitted that his Late Model program is still not where it needs to be for him to be competitive every single week, but he plans to use his third place finish at Orange County as motivation for him to reach the heights of the top-tier teams along the East Coast.

“This gives us a lot of confidence,” Findley said. “I can’t thank everyone who has helped us enough like the guys back at TORP such as Craig Oliver and Sammy Houston, along with Dennis Brock, my mom, my dad and my grandparents. They put a lot of money and effort into what I do, and I am very grateful for that.”

Although Findley is looking forward to the CARS LMSC Tour season finale at South Boston Speedway in November, he is currently focused on the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, where he hopes to improve upon his 36th-place finish during his first attempt in 2018.