The No. 8 proved to be lucky at Langley Speedway on Saturday evening.
In his first Hampton Heat start, Josh Berry parked his familiar No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevy in victory lane after Jacob Derrick, Dale Nicholls and Louie Pasderetz did so in their respective support races carrying the same number.
Both luck and skill were on Berry’s side during the final 50 laps, as Chad McCumbee was forced to retire with a mechanical issue after leading over 150 laps on the night.
“I hate that for Chad,” Berry said. “He would have been tough to beat. We were better that last 50 but Chad was super tough up front. That opened the door for us and we capitalized.”
Once McCumbee dropped out of the race, Berry was tasked with holding off a diverse cast of characters across several late restarts that included CARS Tour rookie Kaden Honeycutt and 2019 Hampton Heat winner Connor Hall.
Each driver gave their best attempt at overtaking the defending NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series champion but two perfect jumps from Berry prevented them from mounting a successful challenge.
Honeycutt was confident in his ability to win the Hampton Heat after leading every single lap at Langley on June 5 but he did not believe he had a fair shot at Berry because of the aggressive racing in the closing stages.
“We were faster that Josh and Connor right there at the end,” Honeycutt said. “We just got held up so much in traffic and got raced pretty hard but that’s just part of it. Tonight was still a good race and we’ll take it despite the circumstances we were in
After failing to get the lead on the outside of the front row, Hall wanted to try and pass Berry from the inside of the second row, which he was on the losing end of in 2020 when Brenden Queen tried it against him and Corey Heim in 2020.
Hall never got close enough to even attempt a pass on Berry.
“Josh took me to school on that one restart,” Hall said. “I got burned the first time and I knew he was going to be pretty good. If I could have gotten to him, I would have had to really do him wrong to win the race. We were a second place car.”
For Berry’s first Hampton Heat victory in his debut appearance, he was given the honor of starting a new race tradition by hoisting a trophy that was set on fire by general manager Vaughan Crittenden to commemorate the excessive temperatures commonly associated with the event.
Berry admitted that the celebration was one of the most unique he has been a part of but he was more than thrilled to have another opportunity to celebrate a Late Model Stock victory alongside JR Motorsports.
“That was a little sketchy if I’m being honest,” Berry said. “Once it finally got going, it was burning pretty hot. [Langley] is just trying to make a tradition out of this thing and that’s exactly what this sport means. It was a great night and I’m really thankful to be doing this right now.”
With NASCAR still in the middle of its Olympics break, Berry plans to stay sharp by competing in the CARS Tour Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway next weekend.
Berry is confident that he will not need luck to win at Hickory with previous accomplishments that include a track championship at the facility back in 2014.
Hampton Heat Results:
1. Josh Berry
2. Connor Hall
3. Kaden Honeycutt
4. Jared Fryar
5. Matt Waltz
6. Brandon Pierce
7. Peyton Sellers
8. Bobby McCarty
9. Danny Edwards
10. Terry Carroll
11. Timothy Peters
12. Grayson Cullather
13. Mark Wertz
14. Greg Edwards
15. Blake Stallings
16. Carter Langley
17. Justin Johnson
18. Chris Johnson
19. Craig Eastep
20. Thomas Scott
21. Woody Howard
22. Rick Gdovic
23. Nick Smith
24. Ryan Huff
25. Chad McCumbee
26. Brenden Queen
27. Casey Wyatt
28. Colin Garrett
29. Justin S. Carroll