For the first time in three weeks to close out the end-of-the-year Late Model Stock slate, Josh Berry did not score the pole and maybe that’s what he, Rodney Childers and Kevin Harvick Inc. needed to break through to win their first race together.
Thus, it was Kaden Honeycutt driving a Tom Usry owned R&S chassis No. 17 to the pole for the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park by 0.019 over Berry.
It didn’t drive like a dump truck come qualifying for Honeycutt and crew chief Marcus Richmond and this exchange will tell the story.
Thanksgiving Classic pole for Kaden Honeycutt
He says his first pole, remarkably, in two years.
How he thinks it's going to race tomorrow and what he thinks about the reseal up top and PJ1 in the middle. pic.twitter.com/c0tu0uvuey
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverRA) November 25, 2023
It was the first pole for Honeycutt in any kind of car, remarkably, in two years and it was a personal point of pride.
“This is awesome …,” Honeycutt said. “You can go from the pole to 10th pretty fast here but we’re going to try to lead the race. I feel like I didn’t do the best job saving my tires at Florence (in the South Carolina 400) but I’m not giving up track position.
“It’s too valuable. We’re going to be focused during our work session in the morning on making a car that can lead tomorrow. Time to get after it.”
That means Berry, chasing his third Thanksgiving Classic in a row, will start from the outside pole on Sunday afternoon.
“Yeah, I feel good about it,” Berry said. “We’ve had a good couple of days down here, same with the past couple of weeks, had speed and it’s just managing everything. Making sure we’re there with enough tire is going to be important.
“I feel like we have a good car but we’re a long way from 250 laps tomorrow night. I can’t thank these guys enough for all their hard work, especially Kevin and Delana (Harvick) and Rodney.”
Defending Thanksgiving Classic winner Josh Berry is going for three wins in a row in the Late Model Stock season finale.
He feels good about it.
He likes the intent of what the track is doing with the sealer and PJ1 but details why he thinks it won't be a factor tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/iilRqnrmSg
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverRA) November 25, 2023
While just 24 cars took time on Saturday for the race on Sunday, it is a top-heavy field, with two-time CARS Tour champion Jared Fryar, series runner-up Brenden Queen and NASCAR Weekly Series national runner-up Doug Barnes Jr. all in the field.
Fryar was especially surprised to have posted the third fastest time, believing his car to be a much better race car than a time trials car.
“It did that when we put stickers on at the end of practice too so we just wanted to back that up and to be in the top-three, looking like we might have a pole halfway through, but I do think our race trim is even better so we’ll see.”
It was kind of the same sentiment from Queen in the Lee Pulliam Performance No. 02 as well.
“Our race trim is really good,” Queen said. “We didn’t do any mock runs this morning and was all in on our race trim. Qualifying was really good, the car was better than I was, I have to take the blame on the money lap, getting in the gas too early coming to the checkered.
“That’s okay though, still a solid starting spot and a long race. Got to be there to win it.”
The most surprised, and pleased, was former track champion Andrew Grady, who was on a pole run until he slipped on his own money lap and posted just the fifth fastest time. But he climbed out of the car and said, ‘I needed that.’
“We have a fast car,” Grady said. “It’s my home track and given the ups and downs of this year, I really wanted to end it on a positive note. I don’t know what the time was but I know we were on a flyer until I screwed up but I know we have something for tomorrow. I got to thank TORP chassis because this is a really good race car they’ve put together.”
Back to Berry, his crew chief says getting back into the Late Model Stock game has been a challenge, but he’s enjoyed it.
Childers said he will enjoy it more if they can end the year in Victory Lane.
“This Late Model Stock stuff is tough,” he said. “We have sat on the pole both weeks until this weekend and maybe qualifying second is what we needed. We bottomed out a little too much but it’s close and hopefully we’ll be there at the end.
“The race format is a bit puzzling, the most confusing thing to watch last year watching from home, and I wish we could stop at halfway and be done with it. So that’s going to be tough.”
What are those rules? Per the rule book:
Controlled Cautions will be held at every caution with the following rules:
- Only 4 crew members are allowed to work on the car during the pit stop.
2. Only four (4) new tires will be allowed per team during the race. Only 2 tires can be put on per CAUTION..
3. Gas and Tires cannot be done at the same controlled caution
4. Any other adjustments can be done during controlled cautions but after 4 laps the car will lose their spot.
Speaking of the tires, Childers says that will provide a surprising wrinkle as well.
“The right rear tire is wearing more than they did last year,” Childers said. “Whether it’s the race track or not, I don’t know. I think it’s going to be a difficult race.”
The race pays $15,000 to win, $7000 for second and $5000 to podium. It’s $1500 to start with $1000 to the pole, $500 for a hard charger, a $500 bonus for the winning crew chief and a $5,600 custom trophy to the winner.
The race will air live around 1:30 p.m. ET on Racing America.
Thanksgiving Classic XXIII
Southern National Motorsports Park
- Kaden Honeycutt
- Josh Berry
- Jared Fryar
- Brenden Queen
- Andrew Grady
- Deac McCaskill
- Aaron Donnelly
- Doug Barnes
- Jake Crum
- Bradley McCaskill
- Clay Jones
- Jonathan Findley
- John Goin
- Chase Burrow
- Dean Shiflett
- Ronnie Bassett
- Cody Bryant
- Katie Hettinger
- Alex Flemming
- Dylan Newsome
- Truett Miranda
- Cole Bruce
- Michael O’Brien
- Adam Resnick