At long last.
It hasn’t been that long, honestly, but when you drive for JR Motorsports at Martinsville Speedway, every missed opportunity seemingly counts for double.
Josh Berry finally broke through and captured a grandfather clock by winning the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 on Saturday night at NASCAR’s most historic short track.
Not only did the 29-year-old snap his eight-race winless streak in the event, he did so in dominant fashion, leading all 200 laps of the richest, most prestigious showdown in Late Model Stock racing from the pole.
Berry was aided by a new race format that discouraged shenanigans and divebombs but also was the beneficiary of the strongest car dating back to last week’s open test.
In addition to the base purse of $32,000, Berry also collected $2000 for his pole run on Friday night and $1000 a piece for each of the stages he won. Each of the $200 laps were also worth a $25 payout – resulting in Berry leaving with $44,000.
“Unbelievable,” Berry said. “I don’t even know what to say. I’m speechless. Hearing those numbers, I’m speechless.”
While Berry has made the feature in all but one of his nine attempts (2013), the track has challenged his JR Motorsports team in ways no other facility has, with a previous best finish of 13th two times.
Berry led his first Martinsville laps late last year and was taken out in a crash inside of 25 laps to go. As a result, Berry placed an increased focus on his restarts, even saying to his team during the race that he wouldn’t allow a repeat of 2018 to happen again.
So naturally, when the caution came out with 14 laps to go, Berry was prepared … but nervous.
“I said, here we go again,” Berry said.
But a combination of Lee Pulliam, Peyton Sellers and Timothy Peters raced their longtime rival with respect and Berry was allowed to pull away on each of the final two restarts.
Peyton Sellers took the bottom on the penultimate restart and Pulliam took the bottom on the final — both without incident.
“I learned a lot last year,” Berry said. “I went home, watched that race, studied the restarts, worked on what I could have done better. We were able to work on the car a little bit and that helped.
“Last year we had a really good car. That was probably the first time we had a car capable of leading and doing what we did. We learned so much about ourselves, gained so much confidence, learned what we needed to do better.”
And again, without the previous formats that saw inverts or competition cautions with 10 laps to go, the best Late Model Stock Car drivers in the Mid-Atlantic were allowed to race each other with all due respect.
“The format change aided that without a doubt,” Berry said. “In the past few years, there’s been inverts and all of that. Tonight was our night.”
And Lee Pulliam, a two time Martinsville winner, had no qualms with having the race play out naturally either.
“We were all racing for second,” Pulliam said. “I’ve been in the same position he’s been in a couple of times. The best car went to victory lane. Sometimes it’s frustrating when you lose a race and have a winning car, but that wasn’t the case tonight.”
That sentiment was shared by Peters, who has Martinsville victories in both a Late Model and the Truck Series.
“That’s a good old southern backside kicking,” Peters added. “Leading all the laps and sitting on the pole. Our car’s in one piece, we can bring it back and figure out what to do. All in all, running for second tonight and finished third.”
It was a showcase for some of the best short trackers in the world as Bobby McCarty and Bubba Pollard completed the top-five.
“I know how good these guys are,” Berry said. “I’ve raced with Lee for a long time, and Timothy, too, Peyton and all these guys. You take the top five in this race and we should all be racing on Sundays. To come here and race with them, I expect them to be good and they are. We definitely had a great car. Luckily for me, the race played out to my benefit.”
The race was slowed by 10 cautions, including one where DGR-Crosley youngster Taylor Gray flipped upside down and rolled across the backstretch. He left the car under his own power and was released from the infield care center.
Tonight @joshberry won the biggest Late Model Stock race of the year @MartinsvilleSwy. He & his @JRMotorsports team built an amazing car. @bubbapollard26 grabbed 5th n our 2nd car. I love grassroots racin & seein our cars run well. I can’t imagine it gettin any better than this.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) October 6, 2019
The complete results from the ValleyStar 300 can be found below.
- Josh Berry
- Lee Pulilam
- Timothy Peters
- Bobby McCarty
- Bubba Pollard
- Peyton Sellers
- Justin Carroll
- Kyle Dudley
- Dustin Rumley
- Kres VanDyke
- Colin Garrett
- Jacob Heafner
- Travis Swaim
- Mike Darne
- Brennan Poole
- Justin Hicks
- Zack Clifton
- Jimmy Wallace
- Grayson Cullather
- Davin Scites
- C.E. Falk III
- Trey Crews
- Matt Leicht
- Stacy Puryear
- Derrick Lancaster
- Layne Riggs
- Trevor Noles
- Ryan Wilson
- Jason York
- Sammy Smith
- Taylor Gray
- Jonathan Findley
- Dexter Canipe, Jr.
- Eric Winslow
- Tommy Lemons
- Chad McCumbee
- Mike Looney
- Craig Moore
- Austin Thaxton
- Tyler Matthews