HAMPTON, Va. – Despite not racing a late model much this season in order to focus on his NASCAR responsibilities, Josh Berry wasn’t the least bit rusty.
Berry, back behind the wheel of his No. 8 late model for JR Motorsports, won the Hampton Heat 200 Saturday night at Langley Speedway. The victory for Berry came in his first start in the marquee event that is part of the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown.
“That was so much fun. I don’t even really know what to say,” said Berry, who earned $10,000 for the victory. “Bill (Mullis) and everybody here at Langley Speedway do a great job. It’s a privilege to come race at a place like this. It’s so awesome to win.”
Berry started third in the 200-lap feature and spent most of the race chasing polesitter Chad McCumbee, who dominated the first 150 laps of the race. McCumbee had just regain the lead from Timothy Peters, who was the loan driver not to pit during a scheduled caution period at lap 150, when he suddenly fell off the pace with 40 laps left in the race.
At the time Berry was battling Connor Hall for second. That battle quickly became a battle for the lead, with Hall leading Berry at the front of the pack. Berry made his move on Hall two laps later, giving Hall a shot to move him out of the way coming out of turn two. Berry moved under and around Hall for the lead by the time they got to turn three.
“I hated that for him. Chad is such a good guy and he was fast. He would have been tough to beat,” Berry said. “I kind of got trapped on the outside and tried to make a move on the top and kind of got boxed in. Then I went back to the bottom and coincidence kind of worked with him falling out and before I knew it I was leading.”
Berry started to pull away at that point, but he got a scare on lap 179 when the slower car of Thomas Scott spun right in front of him in turn two. Berry narrowly avoided Scott as the caution flag waved for Scott’s spin.
Berry held serve on the restart and managed to pull away from the battle for second, but with six laps left the caution would wave again for an incident in turn four involving Justin Johnson and Nick Smith.
That set up a green-white-checkered restart with Berry ahead of Hall, Kaden Honeycutt, Greg Edwards and Jared Fryar. Berry pulled clear of the field during the restart, but behind him Hall, Honeycutt and Edwards briefly went three-wide for second.
It was Hall who emerged in the runner-up spot, but by that point Berry had pulled away enough to secure himself the victory in the Hampton Heat 200.
“I was a little worried at the end of the last segment there before we put the tires on, but we made the right adjustments,” Berry said. “I knew that would be key. We just fought tight the first half. Freed it up, got it right, got out front, got some clean air and was able to do it.”
Hall finished second, with Honeycutt coming home in third. Fryar finished fourth with Matt Waltz taking the final spot in the top-five at the checkered flag.
Josh Berry, Connor Hall, Kaden Honeycutt, Jared Fryar, Matt Waltz, Brandon Pierce, Peyton Sellers, Bobby McCarty, Danny Edwards, Terry Carroll, Timothy Peters, Grayson Cullather, Mark Wertz, Greg Edwards, Blake Stallings, Carter Langley, Justin Johnson, Chris Johnson, Craig Eastep, Thomas Scott, Woody Howard, Rick Gdovic, Nick Smith, Ryan Huff, Chad McCumbee, Brenden Queen, Casey Wyatt, Colin Garrett, Justin S. Carroll.