ABR Turns Focus to Upcoming Butch Renninger Memorial
Port Royal, PA – August 31, 2022
by Addicted2Dirt PR & Media Management
Feature Photo Credit: DK Photography
Last season, just weeks after his first career super late model win at Port Royal Speedway, Austin Berry reached his first Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series preliminary feature event during the Rumble by the River event at ‘The Speed Palace’, but the rains came on Saturday night and wiped out Saturday’s finale.
When the series rolled into town last weekend for the 2022 edition of the event, Berry was back at Port Royal and ready to take his shot at another career first; a Lucas Oil series finale main event.
August 26: Rumble by the River – Night 1 / Port Royal Speedway / Port Royal, PA
[51 cars, Qualifying 18th in Flight A, Heat 5th (6), A-main 15th (15)]
A stout field of 51 super late models entered competition Friday night, August 26th for night one of the Rumble by the River at Port Royal Speedway. A new preliminary night format for the event split the field into two groups for the night, which would allow every team in attendance to compete in a feature event.
Two sets of timed qualifying and heat races set the twin 25-lap feature lineups. Teams accumulated points throughout the night and those points would determine the starting lineups for six heat races the following night, leading to the $50,000 to win finale on Saturday.
Berry timed 18th quickest in Flight A, a little off his goal of a top ten qualifying run. Less than half a second separated him from that goal, but with the team’s bigger engine in the shop they knew it could come down to that.
While the qualifying run may not have handed Berry a front row starting spot, the car has raced well all season, so he would just have to pass some cars in his heat race to improve his starting position in the feature.
Teams waited out a lengthy rain delay before heat races could hit the track. When racing finally resumed, Berry started outside the third row in the heat number three. In the opening laps, he battled closely with the No.32 of Shaun Jones, but eventually worked his way past and into 5th. At the close of the 8-lap qualifying race, Berry crossed the line in 5th.
In his 25-lap A-main, Berry rolled to the green flag from the 15th position. The Mifflin, PA resident slipped to 16th in the hectic opening laps, then recovered to 15th for the first half of the race. Just past the halfway point, things started coming together for Berry. He worked his way into the 13th position on lap seventeen.
The mid-pack battle was fierce. Berry fought hard to not lose any ground in his Tire Mart of Harrisburg / JDS Racing / Berry’s Siding & Seamless Gutter / Locust Hill Custom Butcher Shop / Nathan Berry Beef Farm / A&C Racing Engines / Swift Springs / Addicted2DirtPR.com / Penske Racing Shocks / Hoosier Tire Mid-Atlantic / VP Racing Fuels / Rocket Chassis XR1 No.86, but when the checkered flag flew and the dust settled, Berry was scored 15th.
August 27: Rumble by the River – Night 2 / Port Royal Speedway / Port Royal, PA
[51 cars, Heat 4th (5), B-main (DNS)]
Friday’s preliminary night effort wasn’t great, but it was good. Berry came into Saturday’s action sitting 30th in points of the 51 drivers competing for the 24 available starting spots in the 50-lap main event.
Six heat races were lined up based on the accumulated points, with the six highest drivers in points getting to start on the pole, the next six would start second, and so on. This put Berry in the 5th starting spot in the final heat race. Only the top three finishers from each 8-lap race would advance to the A-main. The remaining teams would compete in one of two B-mains, from which only the top two finishers would advance.
Berry came out of the gate strong, surging past Tyler Erb in turns one and two on the opening lap to take the 3rd spot down the backstretch. Erb fought back around Berry in turn four and took back the final transfer spot at the line.
Berry chased Erb, trying a couple different lines to close the gap enough to wrestle the spot away, but he wasn’t able to do so. He finished 4th, at least providing himself with a better shot in the B-main.
With only the top two finishers transferring from his 10-lap B-main, Berry was hoping to strike quick from his third starting spot. This was his best shot so far to reach another career goal by making a Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series finale. The team finished preparations and he rolled into staging to wait for the call.
When the time came, Berry flipped the switch on the dash to fire the engine. Instead of the usual roar of a race engine, there was smoke from under the dash, then the gauges all went dark. The crew scrambled but there wasn’t enough time to diagnose and fix the issue. Optimism turned quickly to disappointment as the B-main went green without Berry, bringing an end to his Lucas Oil weekend.
August 27: Makeup Feature / Port Royal Speedway / Port Royal, PA
[15 cars, Heat #1 2nd (8), Heat #2 1st (1), A-main 10th (2)]
Following the Lucas Oil Late Model feature, Port Royal Speedway was scheduled to run the completion of the final 21 laps of their August 6th feature event that was suspended by rain. In the opening four circuits before the rains came that night, Austin Berry had fallen back to 5th from his starting spot outside the front row. With the new opportunity, he hoped to recover and make his way back to the front.
Before he could do that, electrical repairs needed to be completed. The Austin Berry Racing team, with assistance from the Gary Stuhler Racing team, identified the issue. A plastic zip tie, valued at less than a penny, had broken and allowed a starter wire to make contact with the header, which melted the coating and caused a short.
The timing of the unusual issue couldn’t have been worse, costing Berry a very good chance at making the lineup for the $2,000 to start feature. While that opportunity was lost, fortunately the issue was resolved in time for Berry to compete in the makeup race where he could hopefully finish the evening on a high note.
When the race resumed, Berry held down the 5th position until he finally worked his way past Hayes Mattern and into 4th on lap 13. As the race entered the final five laps, Berry was closing in on Gary Stuhler and pressuring him for 3rd.
That’s when bad luck reared its head for the second time of the night. Berry’s left rear tire exploded with just four laps remaining, bringing out the caution. Despite not receiving any courtesy laps to make the change, the ABR crew executed a quick tire change to get the No.86 back on the track. Berry was able to get to 10th by the time the checkered flag fell on the event.
“The guys have been working really hard and we found a lot of speed. I’ve been able to get some of the feel that I’ve been looking for. We just had some terrible luck this weekend and didn’t get the results we felt like we should have.“, Berry commented. “We were really close to having a great weekend. I’m happy with where we are at with the car, but of course there’s always more to do. I feel like I’ve learned a lot and improved behind the wheel this year too.”
“We’ve got a few races left this year and I still feel like we can get a win before we’re done.“
Berry will look for a little better luck this Saturday night in the 19th Annual ULMS Late Model Butch Renninger Memorial at Port Royal Speedway, the traditional Juniata County Fair opening night event.
14 races, 0 wins, 3 top 5’s, 6 top 10’s, 9 top 15’s, 12 top 20’s
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VP Racing Fuels
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