Josh Berry won everything there was to win at Martinsville Speedway this week.
He broke a track lap record during Friday night’s qualifying, and after starting on the pole he won Stages 1 and 2 of Saturday’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300. He led all 200 laps of the feature, and at the end of the night when all was said and done, he was race champion.
Berry picked up his first VSCU300 victory in eight tries at Martinsville, and in doing so took home $44,000 in prize money.
After several near misses in the late model race at Martinsville, Berry said he especially learned a lot from last year when he felt like he had a winning car but came up short.
“I learned a lot last year. I went home, I watched that race, I studied the restarts, I studied what I could have done better and just really focused on that there at the end,” Berry said. “We were able to work on the car a little bit... a lot of times these things come down to the restarts there at the end. We were fortunate enough to stay clear and stay green. Plenty of times here you have that caution at the need... I think the people behind us were racing so we were able to build that gap. It’s just unbelievable.”
The conditions of the track also played into Berry’s favor. He struggled in practice last week during the heat, but on a cooler night with temperatures in the 60s he said he felt the weather fit his driving style better.
Other drivers never really had a shot at Berry all night. He was consistently jumping off the line with ease on restarts, and proved to have the best car flag to flag.
“We were all racing for second,” said second-place finisher Lee Pulliam. “I lined up third there on that last restart behind Josh. I’ve been in the position he’s been in several times and sometimes it worked out and sometimes we got dumped. I never had any respect for the guy that dumped me so I wanted to race him clean and he was the best car and the best car ended up in Victory Lane. Its frustrating when you lose a race and you have a winning car but tonight that wasn’t the case. That makes it a little bit easier to swallow.”
Pulliam’s runner-up finish was enough to win the Virginia Triple Crown, given to the driver with the highest average finish in the Thunder Road-Harley Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway, the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway, and Saturday’s race at Martinsville.
Pulliam and Timothy Peters, driving for Nelson Motorsports, battled for the second and third place finish for much of the final stage. Pulliam edged Danville’s Peyton Sellers for the Triple Crown win.
“We had a good run. Me and Timothy had a heck of a battle there,” Pulliam said. “I had to race him hard because it came down to one position to beat Peyton there. Peyton had a win on me so if we had tied he would have won it. So me and Timothy had a great battle and I appreciate him running me clean.”
Peters finished the night third.
It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t as good as Josh’s,” Peters said of his night. “Congrats to him. That’s a good old southern backside kicking right there. Our race was good. The car is in one piece. We can go back and figure out what to do without having to rebuild it.”
The battle in the back though was overshadowed by Berry’s great night. The No. 88 car is owned by JR Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
“Dale facetimed me. He’s tickled to death,” Berry said. “I remember how exciting it was when he won Martinsville, so he’s equally excited right now I’d say.”
Berry knew how good his competition was on the track, and said if he had ever lost the lead it would have been hard to get back to the front.
But no competition on the track Saturday night held a candle to the No. 88.
“I know how good these guys are,” Berry said. “I’ve raced with Lee for a long time, and Timothy and Peyton and all these guys. I know how good they are. I know for a fact that basically you take the top five in this race and we should all be racing on Sundays. These are the best of the best, I believe that. To come here and race with them like we are, I expect them to be good and they are. For us to win tonight, we definitely had a great car and luckily for me the race played out in my benefit.”