Deac McCaskill arrived at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday for the CARS Tour event looking to exorcise some long-standing demons at a track that has tormented him for several seasons.
With a second-place finish to track ace Josh Berry, McCaskill appeared to finally turn the corner at the North Carolina venue in the Race to End Hunger 250.
McCaskill led over 50 laps but just couldn’t hold off Berry — a former Hickory track champion and defending CARS Tour winner on a series of late race restarts. McCaskill twice found himself in the lead and choosing the outside line over Berry but the JR Motorsports veteran shoved him up the track before taking the lead for good with 13 Laps to go.
Even though he finished second, McCaskill was more than pleased to take the runner-up spot, given that he could only place 13th and seventh there during the 2015 season.
“Josh was just strong here all weekend and we knew he was the class of the field,” McCaskill said. “We just decided to stick in the back a little and save tires for most of that race and it looked like we had the right idea for awhile.”
That was especially the case when Berry and RD Smith tangled while racing for third in an incident that destroyed the Smith car and heavily damaged Berry’s. While it looked as if Berry would need to pit, he stayed out and drove his heavily damaged Chevrolet past McCaskill to his first win of the season.
“When he and RD Smith got together, I thought it might knock Josh out, but we were stuck on the outside and we didn’t have the drive off we needed — that hurt us,” McCaskill said. “Matt Piercy was mighty strong too so he had one of the best cars and we were able to get to his outside and hold him down.
“He had his problems and I thought we had a shot of it but Josh came back from his deal to win so I’ll take a top-5 given our struggles here.”
McCaskill was just pleased to lead so many laps at Hickory and believes this is something to build on in advance of the championship race in October. This is also a momentum booster in advance of Southern National in two weeks — his best track and one in which he won the season-opener at back in April.
“We took off and had the lead and the car was driving good early on,” McCaskill said. “We were just saving our tires, but Piercy came through and we got stuck on the high side for a long time racing him for the lead. Way too early and it hurt our right rear tire.
“But yeah, I think we took a top-5 car and finished second with it, so I feel really happy about everything.”
Unofficially, McCaskill has a seven point championship lead over Berry through three of the 10 events.