From Ron Lemasters / jrmracing.com
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (June 13, 2022) -- Josh Berry and Carson Kvapil dominated the inaugural Jack Ingram Memorial 111 Late Model race at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday, delighting a huge crowd and giving team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., on hand as Grand Marshal of the event, quite a show in the process.
The 111-lap Late Model race honored Ingram, a five-time NASCAR Xfinity Series (three when it was the Late Model Sportsman division and two more when it became the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series) and two-time Hickory Motor Speedway champion. The Asheville N.C. native held the all-time record for series victories (31) until Mark Martin broke it in 1997. He was a frequent rival of Dale Earnhardt Sr. as well, and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the Class of 2014.
Kvapil got things going in a positive way in qualifying by earning the pole position for the event in his No. 8 iRacing Chevrolet. It was the second straight pole start for the 19-year-old driver, after having won the top spot at Langley (Va.) Speedway one week earlier. Berry posted the third-fastest time in the No. 88 Harrison's Work Wear Chevrolet.
As the green flag waved over the 26-car field, second-starting Isabella Robusto surged to the lead on the top lane, and Kvapil tucked in behind. Berry settled into fifth place, with both JRM drivers opting to take care of their tires. Teams were issued one set of tires for the event, with no competition cautions.
Five laps into the event, a multi-car crash blocked the track and stopped the action under the red flag. Kvapil took the lead on the restart, only to have Robusto get back around a couple of laps later.
Both Kvapil and Berry settled in the top five, content to let the race come to them. Several caution periods slowed the action and winnowed the field. By lap 30, however, Berry had climbed to second and Kvapil was third.
Former track champion Ryan Millington surged to the lead just before another red flag at lap 42, with Berry still second and Kvapil third. Berry fired off well on the restart and led lap 43, with Millington splitting the JRM teammates in second.
A third red flag waved a couple of laps later, with Berry leading and Kvapil in third. On the ensuing restart, Berry sailed away on the top lane while Millington held second, with Kvapil close behind in third. It stayed that way until lap 57, when Kvapil used the top line to get around Millington for second.
Berry continued to lead until lapped traffic became a factor. A gaggle of wounded machines was running in their own group, and Berry was able to pick them off. By the time Kvapil got to them, the group had bunched up, and Berry had zipped away from his teammate. At the checkered flag, Berry crossed the line a straightaway ahead of Kvapil to earn the $5,011 winner's check and seal the 1-2 finish for JRM.
Layne Riggs overcame an early mechanical problem to finish third, with Justin Carroll and Millington rounding out the top five.
For Berry, the triumph was his 94th career Late Model victory for JRM and his second of the season. Kvapil extended his streak of top-four finishes with the team to 10 straight races, which includes victories at Caraway Speedway and Franklin County Speedway earlier this season. Kvapil leads the CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car points after six races, and will compete in that series this coming weekend at Virginia's Dominion Raceway.
Josh Berry, driver No. 88 Harrison's Work Wear Chevrolet team
"We had a really good car, and it's always fun to race with these (Late Model) guys. They've been doing a really good job. I felt like we had a good Harrison's Work Wear Chevrolet, executed well, tried to manage as much as we could early on. We had a lot of cautions early on and I felt like track position would be pretty important at the end. I figured it would get strung out and we got the lead at the right time. Carson's been doing a great job and I was trying to pay attention to where he was at. It's just about how the restarts fall, and I was able to get in front of him on one of them. I got the lead, but whichever one of us got the lead it would have been tough. Luckily it was us."
Carson Kvapil, driver No. 8 iRacing Chevrolet team
"Josh and I were the best two cars, and I definitely went more aggressive on the setup than he did. I knew I had to make a swing at it. It's not a point race for me, or for any of us really, so I thought I would try something. I'm not going to run the same thing Josh would, because he has 11 years more experience in that car than I do. I think we did alright in our iRacing Chevrolet. Josh was the best car at the end and I just fell off a little. I wish I could have gotten that trophy, but it's cool to race with Josh, even when you're sitting there behind him, because you learn a lot. It's cool that I get to run with him and I got a good finish out of it."
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Photo: Amanda DeVaughn / jrmracing.com