Josh Berry entered the Solid Rock Carriers 123 at Wake County Speedway riding a wave of momentum after picking up his first career CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour victory of the season in the Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway. Although he had never race at Wake County, Berry was confident in the ability of both JR Motorsports cars and knew he would be a contender for the win on Saturday evening.

Berry’s weekend could ultimately be summed up as a bad case of Murphy’s Law from the opening laps in practice, as he and his team encountered numerous problems on Friday and Saturday that continued to set the #88 JR Motorsports back. Despite the issues, Berry remained determined to bring his car home with a solid finish, and raced his way all the way up to 2nd from the back of the field before settling with a fifth place finish.

It would be a long and winding road for Berry to reach that point, as his team was forced to make repairs to his Late Model after he lost control of it coming out of Turn 4 and backed the car into the wall during a practice session on Friday afternoon.

“We weren’t even really up to speed yet, and I let off,” Berry said. “When I did, the car decelerated real quick and jumped sideways. We wrecked hard, but we didn’t really know what happened. We felt that it was something in the rear end, but when you wreck that hard, you really can’t tell.”

Berry and his team took the damaged Late Model back to the JR Motorsports shop, and elected to repair the car to the best of their ability, but it would only take one pace lap in the first practice session on Saturday for another issue to develop on the car. As Berry attempted to accelerate, the engine in his car expired, which caused him to limp back to the pits where he was nearly hit by Charlie Watson and Thomas Beane.

Berry and his team deduced that the faulty engine was what led to the accident on Friday afternoon, as they quickly scrambled to put a different engine in the car, which Berry later admitted was not designed for a track like Wake County. The engine change was completed moments before the final Late Model practice session concluded, which allowed Berry to turn several laps around the quarter-mile bullring and was able to post times inside the Top 10.

The speed that Berry’s car displayed in practice carried over into qualifying, as he was able to earn the eighth place starting position for the 123-lap Late Model feature. Unfortunately for Berry, the throttle started to stick on his car during his qualifying laps, which once again forced Berry’s team to make repairs, which would put him at the rear of the 20-car field for unapproved adjustments.

The circumstances surrounding Berry’s starting position put him and his team in a precarious position, as they knew they would have to find a way to save their tires without losing a lap to the leaders. Berry was undeterred by the quick pace that Bobby McCarty set in the early stages of the race, as his decision to ride around at the back of the field ended up paying dividends for him, as a couple of mid-race cautions allowed him to stay within striking distance of the leaders.

A competition caution at Lap 73 would prove to be the turning point in Berry’s race, as he began to drive more aggressively and worked his way around Bobby McCarty, Lee Pulliam and several other strong cars to move into second place behind his teammate Sam Mayer. Berry was impressed by how much speed his car displayed after all of the damage it had suffered internally and externally over the past 24 hours, but stated that the team’s patient strategy is what gave them the chance they needed to race for the win.

“I felt like everyone was going to get into trouble by burning up their tires, which they did,” Berry said. “Deac and a whole bunch of guys up front ended up wearing out their stuff. Me and Lee drove the smartest races, but that’s what you got to do. I knew the car wasn’t right, and I knew we didn’t have the engine combination we wanted, but our plan was to survive and still be in it at the end.”

Berry found himself in a position to wrestle the lead away from his young teammate after a late-race caution set up a two-lap shootout with both JR Motorsports cars on the front row. On the ensuing restart, contact between Mayer and Pulliam moved Berry out of the groove, which allowed Mayer to run away with his first career CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour victory, while Deac McCaskill edged out Berry in a photo finish for fourth.

Despite having an opportunity to challenge for the win, Berry knew he would not be able to mount a challenge against Mayer, adding that he had the best car in the field and that lap traffic is what allowed him to close the gap on his teammate. Despite the strong run, Berry is relieved that his tumultuous weekend at Wake County has finally concluded, and is ready to move on with the last remaining races on the 2018 CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour schedule.

“I’m not happy with how the weekend went by any stretch of the imagination,” Berry said. “On paper it looks like a great finish, but it was still an extremely frustrating weekend, and if we had much better luck, things would have gone a whole lot better. We’re just going to go home, buy a new motor, put two clips on the car, and get ready for Orange County.”

Both divisions of the CARS Response Energy Tour will get two weeks off before they travel to Rougemont, North Carolina for the Thrifty Tire – Puryear Tank Lines 300 on September 8. Berry has not won at Orange County Speedway since the 2015 season, but is looking forward to returning to the track after missing the Mid-Atlantic Classic earlier this season so he could make his ARCA debut at Salem Speedway, where he finished fourth for Chad Bryant Racing.