Josh Berry poses in victory lane following the first win of the night at Hickory Motor Speedway on March 17, 2018. He would go on to win both races on the night. Jaden Austin Photo

Josh Berry’s 2018 campaign got off to an interesting start last weekend at Tri-County Motor Speedway where he had to overcome issues and scramble to get back to a fifth-place finish in the CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car season opener. This weekend he got back to his winning ways as he doubled up on victories in the 67th season opening night at Hickory Motor Speedway.

Ryan Millington qualified on the pole with Ty Gibbs posted the second fastest time of the night. Berry third, Charlie Watson fourth and Austin McDaniel fifth. Qualifying would be the last time anyone would beat Berry as he didn’t allow anyone else to occupy victory lane.

The field was 14-cars strong with some top NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car drivers from the region making up the field. Millington was coming back to the track where he won the 2017 championship and was coming in with some momentum after winning the Money Madness 99 at Caraway Speedway two weeks ago. He would start from the pole but his time out front would be short-lived.

Millington took charge of the first race from the drop of the green flag but by lap 15 he surrendered the lead of the race to Berry. Berry never looked back on his way to a dominating win. Millington would retain second with Gibbs slipping from his second starting position back to a fourth-place finish. Jacob Heafner, who missed the CARS Tour race last week at Tri-County would finish fifth.

Charlie Watson recovered from an early race incident to finish sixth. Justin Johnson finished seventh with Sam Mayer slipping to eighth, Evan Swilling and Sheflon Clay completed the top ten finishers in race one.

The top eight would be inverted for the second race putting Mayer and Johnson on the front row. Mayer chose the outside for the start putting Johnson on the inside. Mayer would get the jump from the start. The only caution of the second race would come as Gibbs got into the side of Heafner. It would cut Heafner’s tire and he would spin on the front stretch. Gibbs would head to pit road.

Berry might have started eighth but he quickly found his way to third and by lap 11 was putting some serious pressure on McDaniel for the second spot. He then moved by him and began giving his teammate Mayer chase. Berry took the lead from Mayer on lap 14 and again he would never look back.

“We had an awesome car here tonight,” Berry said following the race.  “We’ve had a lot of good cars here over the years. Our goal was to win the first race and then see where we were after that.  We got that and then we still had tire to get back to the front in the second race.  We got spots early and found ourselves battling for the win.”

Mayer tried desperately to stay with Berry but fell into the clutches of McDaniel as they raced for the second spot. Mayer would retain the spot to cross the stripe behind Berry. McDaniel would finish third with Millington and Johnson completing the top five. Cole Glasson, who was involved in the first race skirmish with Watson, rallied under the green flag to finish sixth. Gibbs recovered to finish seventh with Swilling, Heafner, and Watson completing the top ten finishers.

Race #1:
1 – Josh Berry #88
2 – Ryan Millington #17
3 – Austin McDaniel #12
4 – Ty Gibbs #18
5 – Jacob Heafner #95
6 – Charlie Watson #9
7 – Justin Johnson #44
8 – Sam Mayer #9
9 – Evan Swilling #18
10 – Sheflon Clay #15
11 – Mitch Walker #29
12 – Jeremy Pelfrey #51
13 – Cole Glasson #5
14 – Rusty Skewes #15 DNS

Race #2:
1 – Josh Berry #88
2 – Sam Mayer #9
3 – Austin McDaniel #12
4 – Ryan Millington #17
5 – Justin Johnson #44
6 – Cole Glasson #5
7 – Ty Gibbs #18
8 – Evan Swilling #18
9 – Jacob Heafner #95
10 – Charlie Watson #9
11 – Jeremy Pelfrey #51
12 – Sheflon Clay #15
13 – Mitch Walker #29
14 – Rusty Skewes #15 DNS