Means knew the team had something good for Hickory after a shakedown test left everyone on the team with high expectations. Emotions went higher when Berrier qualified second.
“It was absolutely fantastic,” Means said of the car. “Ed was very, very pleased. It did everything we wanted it to do. It turned like it was supposed to. Then we took it to Hickory, and we sat on the outside pole. We were the first qualifier out and I believe that if we hadn’t been the first qualifier out, we might’ve sat on the pole.”
Qualifying was one thing, but racing was going to be something different. Since taking over driving duties of the No. 77 the previous season, Berrier hadn’t finished better than 10th.
Still, Berrier and Means knew they had a chance to win.
When the green flag waved, Berrier settled in behind polesitter Robert Pressley for the first 59 laps before taking the lead on lap 60. He led until lap 139, when Mike Dillon went to the point.
Dillon led 54 laps before Berrier drove his Ford back to the front of the field on lap 194. From there, Berrier paced the final 107 laps to earn his only NASCAR Xfinity Series victory, Means’ only series triumph as a crew chief and Ford’s only series win at Hickory.
It’s a moment that still sticks out in the minds of both men.
“We just had a great day,” Berrier said. “It was really special because I had a lot of my family there that didn’t normally get to come. My dad, my biggest supporter, he wasn’t able to be there because he was helping a guy on a truck at the time and he was out of town. He watched it on TV. It was a very special day having a lot of the family there and being able to celebrate with us.”
The victory gave Means a sense of validation for his hard work in turning around the Moy Motorsports team after being hired as crew chief.
“We took a team that was a laughing-stock … basically they had money and were going nowhere with it,” Means said. “We built a car ourselves in our shop and we outran the best in the business at the time. I was pretty proud of that.”
Berrier hoped the victory would jump-start his NASCAR career, but that wasn’t the case. The rest of the season was a struggle for the team, with Berrier earning only one more top-10 finish in 1998.
He returned to the team in 1999 but was released before the end of the season. He never raced full time in NASCAR again and took a job as a fabrication manager with JKS Inc., where he is still employed.
Despite never finding great success in NASCAR, Berrier is thankful for his time in the sport and cherishes the fact he managed to earn one trophy against some of the best racers of the era.
“It means that I got an opportunity to get one of those trophies that a lot of drivers don’t get the opportunity to have,” said Berrier, who also made 19 starts at the Cup Series level and competed in the Brickyard 400 and Daytona 500 during his career. “I was able to at least get one of those trophies against a very competitive field of good race car drivers and a couple that turned out to be Cup Series champions.
“I got to do a lot of things that a lot of other drivers, Saturday night drivers, never got the opportunity to go do. I was blessed to fight and claw and make my way into a good piece of equipment.”
Hickory Motor Speedway continues to host weekly NASCAR racing, but it’s unlikely one of NASCAR’s three national touring series will return to “The Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars.”
That solidifies Berrier’s distinction of being the last NASCAR national series winner at the historic track.
It’s a badge of honor Berrier wears proudly.
“Yeah, I shut the place down when I won,” Berrier joked. “I wish they’d go back to (Hickory). I think it’d be good for the sport, that’s for sure.”