Two More Races On Tap This Weekend
Port Royal, PA – March 23, 2021
by Addicted2Dirt PR & Media Management
While the first outing of 2021 the week before seemed to show some positives, the day was cut short and the team was left without enough evidence to really prove anything to themselves. As they unloaded for their second weekend of action, of course the goal was to make the shows and record good finishes, but the unspoken hope among all in the ABR pit was simple: run a complete weekend, make a lot of laps and find out how good their program was.
The March 20th-21st weekend brought Austin Berry and the Berry’s Siding & Seamless Gutter, Locust Hill Custom Butcher Shop, Nathan Berry Beef Farm, MS Shock Therapy, A&C Racing Engines, Ontime Body & Graphic, Swift Springs, Hoosier Tire Mid-Atlantic, VP Racing Fuels, Rocket Chassis XR1 No.86 back to Central Pennsylvania’s Port Royal Speedway for a pair of ULMS events.
Forty-eight teams signed in on the first day of Spring in Central Pennsylvania. The field was divided into two groups of 24 for their 2-lap time-trial sessions. Austin would be the 23rd car out in Group A. Hot laps showed a high oil pressure issue for the team, which they quickly addressed before their turn under the clock.
Going out late in a group is usually a bit of a disadvantage as a result of declining track conditions, however Berry was able to turn in the 15th quickest time in his group, giving the team a reasonable shot at transferring to the A-main through their heat race. Four 8-lap, 12-car heat races were slated for the field, with Group A cars making up heats 1 & 2, and Group B cars making up heats 3 & 4. The top 4 finishers in each heat would transfer directly to the A-main, with the remainder of the field getting a second chance to make it into the main event through a B-main.
Austin would roll off 8th in the first heat, which meant he had to pass 4 cars to advance. It was a tall order with names like Norris, Flinner, Robinson, Lee, Covert and Haus in the lineup. Berry’s early laps were consumed by a heated three-car battle for the sixth position, which he eventually won with a slide job in turn one. Once he cleared that slider, he was able to pull away and set his sights on the fifth place car of Jason Covert, who had been able to pull away by a dozen car lengths while the battle for sixth raged. Austin would need a yellow to close the gap and have a shot, but it never came and he settled for a sixth place finish, holding off Haus in the closing laps. While one could focus on the final result, closer examination showed some encouraging things thus far in the day. Their time was slightly better than might have been expected given their late slot in their group and Austin moved forward (+2) in the short heat race.
Four more cars would transfer to the final event from each of two B-mains. Berry started third in his consolation race but unfortunately, for the first time all day, went a little backwards and ended up sixth, two spots out of the show, bringing the team’s day to an end.
Between loading up Saturday evening and returning to Port Royal Speedway at lunch time the next day, Austin Berry and team had done their best to apply what they had learned Saturday, by making a couple changes. They were one of forty-five ULMS late models signed in for action. The format would be identical to the day before: 2 groups for timed qualifying that would set up 4 heats with 4 to qualify from each, followed by 2 B-mains with 4 to advance from those as well.
The team’s pill draw on day 2 would put them right in the middle of Group B qualifying, number 11 of 22. They would be 34th overall to take time, so Berry and crew chief Josh Sheaffer would have to keep an eye on the daytime surface to see how it held up until Austin went under the clock. While staged in the infield to make their qualifying run, teams don’t have the capabilities or time to make significant changes based on what they see, but they can make decisions about what line to run or how aggressively to approach the laps. In the end, they recorded laps that were about what they expected under the circumstances, placing them 12th quickest in the group.
Berry’s time gave him the 6th starting spot in heat 4, joined by Zeigler, Norris, Rine, Miley and Cosner to name a few. When the race went green, the field settled into order pretty much as they started and not a lot changed from there. Austin was able to gain a little, finishing 5th, just missing the transfer by one spot. On the bright side, the finish would put the ABR No.86 on the front row of their B-main.
Berry settled into second on the start of the last chance race and ‘held serve’ for a few laps until eventually slipping to third, and later to fourth as they reached the halfway point. In the later stages, Austin held off a furious challenge by former track champion Mike Lupfer and eventually put four car lengths between himself and Ryan Scott who got by Lupfer with three laps remaining. As the field passed under the white flag, it appeared certain Berry would put the team in the show. Heartbreak struck in the form of Scott, who on the final lap got a big run off the high side of turn 2 and pulled along side Austin in turn 3. Scott shaved 0.75 seconds off his previous best lap in the event, beating the Rocket XR1 of Berry to the line by less than a half of a second. Missing the show by one spot, especially that way, really stung.
After having some time to replay that final lap in his head several times, wondering what he could have done differently, Berry tried to be positive about the team’s weekend. “We’re all disappointed we just missed both ULMS shows this weekend against a really good field, but I’m extremely proud of how hard the team worked. We were really close, so that gives me hope.” The team also wanted to express their sincere thanks to a couple fellow racers who pitched in over the weekend to help them out. He continued, “I’m also really encouraged by some of the things we were able to learn by being able to compete through both shows and not be sidelined by anything mechanical. We are a step closer to the consistency in the car that we’re looking for.” He is right to focus on that. It doesn’t matter if you’re inching forward or leaping forward, as long as the direction is forward.
ABR will be back in action two times this weekend. Friday, March 26th, they will be at Williams Grove Speedway with the ULMS. Saturday, March 27th, they will be back at Port Royal Speedway when the late models return as part of a regular show for The Speed Palace.
AUSTIN BERRY RACING
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