PELETIER, N.C. – JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry picked up the victory in a frantic Solid Rock Carriers Crystal Coast 125 at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway on Saturday night.
The event was a consequential race for the CARS Tour, which excited fans and frustrated many competitors.
Berry took the lead away from pole-sitter on Chad McCumbee on lap 73 and never looked back at the chaos that unfolded behind him.
Among the casualties of the chaos were Berry’s main championship rival, last year’s CARS Tour champion Bobby McCarty, and reigning Carteret County Speedway track champion Brandon Clements.
After the race, Berry, who was involved in a late-race skirmish in last year’s Crystal Coast 125, was elated about his victory.
“We’ve had a really good car all weekend since we got here,” Berry said. “We thought it would be best to ride around for a bit, but at halfway, we decided to make a move at it, and I was able to get the lead. Luckily we were in front of all that mess.”
Behind Berry, a donnybrook ensued, which included a multi-car accident on lap 109 which swept up many contenders – including McCarty, Layne Riggs, Justin T. Carroll, Clements, and Joshua Yeoman.
In the lap 109 incident, eventual runner-up Deac McCaskill attempted to throw a black on McCarty, but McCarty had already gotten within a position to make the pass.
The two drivers made contact, triggering the race’s most notable incident which resulted in Brandon Pierce nearly going airborne.
“He just came all the way down on me,” a perturbed McCarty said after the crash. “I don’t know what he was thinking, but it was just some bull crap. I’m not playing these games anymore. I’ve been doing this for 21 years and I know what I’m doing, and I’m done playing the nice guy. If I have a fifth-place car, and I have a shot to take everyone out to win it, that’s what I’m going to do.”
McCaskill, who won the series championship in 2016, was apologetic after the melee.
“My initial reaction was that I didn’t want to get turned into the wall,” McCaskill said. “I came off a lane and Bobby was there. Unless I see something different on the replay, I’m sorry for what happened. I hate tearing stuff up, and I can’t really enjoy this finish here.”
Carteret County was once again impactful in the CARS Tour championship picture. Entering Saturday night’s race, Berry had only a one-point advantage in the CARS Tour championship point standings.
After Saturday, Berry will have a comfortable lead in the standings as the series heads to a track Berry has had a lot of success.
“We had a good lead a month ago, so these things can evaporate quick,” Berry said. “You have to stay on it and keep working hard every day to try and stay upfront. To hold off [McCarty], we’re going to have to be in the Top 3, so we’re just going to keep racing hard and be up there at the end.”
For his part, McCarty feels the lap 109 incident may have cost him a second consecutive CARS Tour championship.
“I was racing for a championship, and he just took every bit of that from me,” McCarty explained. “We are done in the points. This literally handed it to Josh. It’s frustrating because these guys worked really hard all weekend trying to get it right, and it was all taken away by somebody that I respected a lot up until this point.”
The late-race chaos allowed Sammy Smith to race his way into a third-place finish. Layne Riggs was able to rebound to finish fourth, his worst-ever finish at Carteret County, while Justin S. Carroll crossed in fifth.
Trevor Ward, Tyler Matthews, Mini Tyrrell, Camden Gullie and Chad McCumbee rounded out the top 10.
Jonathan Kornegay came away with the victory in the Charger race, passing Joshua van Winkle on lap 13. Michael Tucker led wire-to-wire in the 35-lap Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge feature.
Josh Berry, Deac McCaskill, Sammy Smith, Layne Riggs, Justin S. Carroll, Trevor Ward, Tyler Matthews, Mini Tyrrell, Camden Gullie, Chad McCumbee, Brandon Clements, Bobby McCarty, Brandon Pierce, Justin T. Carroll, Joshua Yeoman, Ronald Hill, Matt Cox, Stacy Puryear, Jonathan Findley, Terry Carroll, Drew Dollar, Cameron Bowen, Craig Moore, Jessica Cann.