An up-and-down Mid-Atlantic Classic for Brandon Pierce concluded on a sour note when was penalized several positions on the track following a last-lap collision between him and Adam Lemke.
A frustrated Pierce admitted that he was baffled by the CARS Tour’s decision to put him at the tail-end of the 12 cars that finished on the lead lap, stating that the contact between him and Lemke was nothing more than a byproduct of hard-racing.
“Anyone who was sitting up in tower saw us beating the hell out of each other and putting on a good show,” Pierce said. “We were pretty even over those last five or six laps, but he would literally pin me down on the bottom of the track. I was already free to begin with, and I was just trying to do the best I can.”
Pierce’s struggles began on the third lap of the race when CARS LMSC Tour points leader and Lemke’s teammate Josh Berry lost an engine while leading the race, which triggered a multi-car pileup that involved several strong contenders after they slipped in the oil left behind by Berry’s car.
Pierce sustained heavy damage to the left-rear of his #2 Fremont Properties Chevrolet in the crash, but everyone on his Lee Pulliam Performance pit crew worked diligently to repair his car during the red/yellow condition, and were able to get him back out on track moments before the green flag was displayed.
Although Pierce battled handling issues for the rest of the evening, he was not content with riding around until the checkered flag and began navigating his way back up to the front through the wounded and undamaged cars before finding himself on the verge of a Top 5 position.
Lemke held sixth with less than 10 laps to go, and was looking to take advantage of the earlier chaos by bringing home another solid run at Orange County, which was the site of his best career CARS LMSC Tour finish of third earlier this year
Both drivers battled hard for the position up until the final lap, where Pierce made slight contact with Lemke going into Turn 1, which sent the 17 year-old rookie around and relegated him to a 13th place finish one-lap down.
“I think we were a little bit quicker than him,” Lemke said about the accident. “I was giving him some room on the bottom but he just got into my left rear quarter-panel in Turn 1 on the last lap and spun me around. I guess he lived to the reputation of ‘if you can’t pass him, wreck him.’ There was one lap left in the race and he didn’t have to do that.”
The collision between Pierce and Lemke was not the only time the pair have come together on the track, as both of them battled each other intensely during the final laps of the Old North State Nationals in April, with Lemke’s aggression drawing the ire of Pierce after the checkered flag.
Pierce would be on the receiving end of a heated discussion on Saturday when Berry went over to his trailer to voice his displeasure about how the final lap unfolded for his teammate, but Pierce remarked that he was hoping to have a formal discussion with Lemke instead of the Late Model veteran.
“I have a lot of respect for Josh Berry, but I hate that he felt the need to come over to me and fight someone else’s battle,” Pierce said. “Berry was trying to say that I drove off into Turn 1 and wrecked him, but I didn’t drive it any differently than I had all night. I didn’t feel like I even hit him that hard, which could be in part on the worn out tires. It is what it is, but it’s just disappointing.”
Pierce hopes to talk to Lemke about Orange County at some point in the near future, but for now, both drivers are focused on a busy few weeks of Late Model competition that will include the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway.
Editor’s Note: Doc Love contributed to this story.