March 16, 2014 — Audio, photo and recap by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — NEWTON, NC — Call him psychic if you want, but Josh Berry made a prediction before Saturday night’s NASCAR WHELEN All-American Series Late Model Stock feature, and proceded to back in up in impressive fashion.
“I’m predicting a JRM one-two finish tonight,” Berry said following qualifying.
That’s exactly what happened.
After qualifying on pole position following Doug Barnes Jr.’s disqualification from the qualifying order, Berry dropped back behind 18-year-old Landon Huffman on the initial start before charging back to the front of the field, taking the lead back from Huffman on Lap 23 and driving away to Victory Lane over his teammate William Byron and Huffman at the conclusion of 50 laps.
“I guess we did back it up,” Berry laughed in Victory Lane following the race. “What a night for this JR Motorsports team. We didn’t have the bite right there at the green flag and dropped back behind Landon; he had a really good car there at the start. I just stayed patient because I knew we had a really good car. I wanted to save some of the tires once I got by (Landon) when I could in case of a late-race caution, but the race stayed green the whole way. A one-two finish for us is pretty awesome. William has done a great job, and we are going to have a lot of good runs this season.”
Berry finished fourth last week to open the points season at Hickory, and said that even a top five ‘wasn’t good enough’, and drove him to push harder this time around.
“Last week we were disappointed with our fourth place and went to work and really made some improvements with the Speedco Chevy,” Berry added. “I can’t thank all of our guys enough for working so hard this week, and I’m really happy to get them a win.”
16-year-old Byron was overjoyed with his second straight top two finish in his second career Late Model start, assuming the track points lead by two points over his teammate Berry.
“I am really pleased with how our team performed this weekend,” Byron said following the event. “Both JRM cars were strong and it’s great to see my teammate get the win.”
“It’s huge for us to come away with the points lead here at Hickory after the first couple races,” Byron added. “I’m a little blown away by it really. Just an amazing effort by everyone at JRM. I know I’ve got a lot of learning left to do this year if we want to try and hold on to it, but I’d say we’re off to a pretty great start.”
Shane Lee and Ashley Huffman rounded out the top five in the LMSC class in a race that ran green-to-checkered without a caution flag.
For the lack of melees that the Late Model Stocks had, however; the Limited Late Model (LLM) class more than made up for it. Casey Pierce started the afternoon from pole but the field was slowed immediately by a hard crash in Turn One on the opening lap, when Jeremy Pelfrey, who finished second last week at Hickory, had a right front suspension failure and pounded the outside wall, destroying his No. 51 machine.
“Just a really tough night for us,” Pelfrey said following the accident. “I was hoping we could make up some points on the 77 (Travis Byrd, points leader) but this puts us in a pretty big hole. Something broke, we’ll take it back to the shop and find out what, but it was a hard hit and a tough end to our day.”
Following a red flag to reset the grid and clean up the aftermath of the incident, the field resumed under the green flag and Pierce and Dylon Wilson jetted out in front of the rest of the field before a second caution flew at Lap 7 for heavy smoke from the No. 15 machine of Sheflon Clay.
A third caution came out for a multi-car spin involving the 11 of Dillon Houser and the 37 of Chris Phipps on the frontstretch before the field was able to get a long stretch of green flag racing in. Once the green lights came back on at lap 11, Wilson and Pierce resumed their titanic battle at the front of the field, changing the lead between themselves on two consecutive laps before Pierce began pulling away at Lap 12.
The front pair stayed that way past halfway and up through the ten to go signal at Lap 25 but Wilson slowly began reeling in the 18 of Pierce again, and at Lap 26, peeked to the inside in Turn 1 to try and get the upper hand. A lap later, he was successful, driving around the inside of the Pierce machine and setting sail to just over a second’s victory ahead of Pierce at the checkered flag.
“I really wasn’t sure if we were going to have enough to get back around Casey when he got by us there at lap 12,” a breathless Wilson said in Victory Lane. “I thought the restart was going to be our only shot to get around him, but his car started sliding there around lap 20 or so and we started catching him. I just wanted it real bad and our car stuck.”
“We just lost some grip there at the end, lost the handle a little bit on our car,” a disappointed Wilson said after the race. “We were good for a while, but as that last run wore on, it just started getting away from us, and I didn’t have enough to hold Dylon back there at the end. He drove a good race, and he’s a good friend of mine. I hate it for our team to come up short, but congrats to him tonight.”
Ross Dalton, division points leader Travis Byrd and Taylor Stricklin made up the rest of the top five.
Spencer Boyd drove the J&J Motorsports No. 09 Super Truck from pole position to victory lane, leading all 35 laps in the class’ season debut at Hickory, and Kevin Townsend scored his second straight victory in the Street Stock class to round out the evening’s action.
The Hickory Motor Speedway will be in action next Saturday, March 22nd for their next slate of events highlighted by the 125 lap main event for the new KOMA Unwind Modified Madness Series as well as features for the Southeast Super Trucks and East Coast Flat Head Series.
RESULTS: NASCAR WHELEN All-American Series Night – Hickory Motor Speedway; March 15, 2014
Late Model Stock Cars (50 laps): 1. Josh Berry, 2. William Byron, 3. Landon Huffman, 4. Shane Lee, 5. Ashley Huffman, 6. Payton Ryan, 7. Bret Holmes, 8. Austin McDaniel, 9. Doug Barnes Jr., 10. Matt Piercy, 11. Hayden Woods, 12. Dan Moore
Limited Late Models (35 laps): 1. Dylon Wilson, 2. Casey Pierce, 3. Ross Dalton, 4. Travis Byrd, 5. Taylor Stricklin, 6. Charlie Watson, 7. Marcus Lambert, 8. Dillon Houser, 9. Steven Pierro, 10. Allen Huffman, 11. Trent Barnes, 12. Chris Phipps, 13. Skylar Felkner, 14. Patrick Rachels, 15. Greg Wise, 16. Monty Cox, 17. Sheflon Clay, 18. Jeremy Pelfrey
Super Trucks (35 laps): 1. Spencer Boyd, 2. Lee Queen, 3. Dakota Slagle, 4. Whitney Lail, 5. Tal Davidson, 6. Broderick Bauguess, 7. Joey Shuryan, 8. Tyler Dayton
Street Stocks (30 laps): 1. Kevin Townsend, 2. Jonathon Smith, 3. Kevin Eby, 4. Cody DeMarmels, 5. Marshall Sutton, 6. Larry Mosher, 7. Mark Whitten, 8. Joshua Snyder, 9. Kevin Saam, 10. Ethan Johnson, 11. Carroll McKinney