Austin Berry Records Solid Finish in First Visit to The Grove

Port Royal Delivers Tough Lesson the Following Night

Port Royal, PA – March 29, 2021

by Addicted2Dirt PR & Media Management

Austin Berry was excited to get to the track on Friday, March 26th.  He had good reason to be.  During maintenance and prep at the shop during the week, the team had finally discovered the source of a mysterious issue they had been having with their right front shock for several races.  On top of that, after a couple years of losing the opportunity to Mother Nature, he was finally going to get to make his first start at the legendary Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, PA.  


Friday’s show at the ‘paper-clip’ shaped oval was sanctioned by the ULMS and 22 teams signed in to compete.  The Grove is known as a tricky track for even the most experienced wheelmen, so the 3 circuits Berry was able to make in his lone hot la session certainly didn’t provide all the answers he needed prior to his timed qualifying effort.  Going out 7th, he ended up recording the 19th quickest time on a very heavy and slightly greasy surface.  Having never made laps there before, it was difficult to judge whether the resolved shock issue had made much of a difference.  Saturday night would probably be a better time to evaluate that.


The timed qualifying determined the lineups for three 8-lap heats.  Given the number of cars registered, all cars would qualify for and start ‘straight up’ in the main event, meaning the heat winners start in the top 3 spots in the feature, followed by the second place qualifiers, and so on.  Austin started 7th in the first heat and was able to move forward.  Each lap was valuable experience.  He fended off repeated challenges from Billy Wampler and held on to finish 5th.  


The heat race effort provided Berry with the 13th starting spot in the 30-lap A-main.  The first 14 laps went smoothly before the first caution of the event appeared.  At the caution, Austin was still riding in the 13th position, working to figure out the best way to get around the speedway.  The track was still full of grip and the leaders had set a blistering pace, but Berry was able to hang with the quick pace and was still on the lead lap.  On the restart, he made some good choices and was able to start moving forward, finding himself in 11th on lap 19.  He challenged briefly for 10th but had to settle back into line.  Austin found a rhythm and brought the Berry’s Siding & Seamless Gutter, Locust Hill Custom Butcher Shop,, Nathan Berry Beef Farm, A&C Racing Engines, Ontime Body & Graphic, Swift Springs, Hoosier Tire Mid-Atlantic, VP Racing Fuels, Rocket Chassis XR1 No.86 home in 11th place, still on the lead lap.  A very solid outing for his first visit to Williams Grove.


The following night brought another stout field of 36 super late models to Port Royal Speedway for a weekly pill-draw show.  For these ‘regular shows’, a random pill draw is used in lieu of timed qualifying to set the heat lineups.  The format would be 4 8-lap heats with 5 cars from each to qualify for the A-main.  The top 3 drivers would go to the redraw, a random drawing for the top 12 starting spots in the A-main.  


Austin started the evening a little behind the figurative eight ball, starting 9th in heat number four.  The heat race provided the first true feedback on the resolved shock issue, as Austin found himself in a good handling racecar and was able to quickly advance to 7th in under 2 laps.  A slight error in judgement put him over the cushion in turn 4, slipping back to 9th as lap 2 went in the books.   He regained his rhythm and fought back into 7th just past the halfway point and began to close on the 6th place car.  Berry ran out of laps and settled for a 6th place finish.  After crawling out of the car, Berry shook his head and reflected on a missed opportunity, We were really good (in the heat).  If I had not slipped above the cushion on lap 2, I’m pretty certain we would have transferred to the feature.” 


He didn’t have time to dwell on it.  Austin was slated to start 8th in the 12-lap B-main.  The top 4 finishers from the event would transfer to fill the final starting spots for the A-main.  The team made some minor adjustments on their Rocket Chassis XR1 and rolled into staging for the final opportunity to transfer.  Berry once again had a car that responded to his liking, enabling him to move quickly into 7th on the opening lap and into 6th on lap two.  When the caution flag waved on lap 5 for third place running Gene Knaub, Austin had just powered into 5th, one away from a transfer spot.  The restart put Berry into the 4th and final transfer position.  


The field returned to green and Berry continued making smooth laps, finding himself on the heels of the 3rd place car as lap 7 went in the books.  As Austin navigated turn 4, he got a little higher than he had been running and brushed the spoiler on the fence.  It seemed pretty minor…until it tapped the fence again, slighter harder this time, as he exited turn 4.  That impact was enough to upset the balance of the car and shift the weight from the right rear to the left rear, leaving Berry fighting the wheel trying to regain the balance and keep it pointed toward turn 1.  Unfortunately his efforts were unsuccessful and he was left with two choices:  keep fighting it and clobber the outside wall or spin it out and avoid destroying the car.  He chose option two and ended his day facing traffic watching the field sail by.  The team was credited with a 13th place finish.


Given the struggles ABR has had in the early part of the 2021 season, you would have expected to find a very frustrated and angry ABR pit area after the B-main.  Maybe a wrench bouncing off a distant trailer wall?  Surprisingly, you would be wrong.  Well, half wrong anyway.  Austin Berry was actually smiling.  When asked about the grin, he responded, “Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I’m mad.”  Actually he may have used a different word than mad.  He was definitely upset.  So was the rest of the crew.  


The grin boiled down to this:  the good news of the week outweighed the disappointment of the past 30 minutes, and even the season for that matter.  The entire team realized the car finally had speed again.  The issue they found during the week, coupled with some other adjustments to the car, and also to Austin’s driving style, had made a significant difference.  They had finally crested the hill after searching and searching for the change(s) they needed to get back to where they had been in 2019.  Everyone at ABR understands the big picture.  They understand this sport is not easy.  It takes time and hard work to reach the goal, and there’s still plenty of work to be done.  They aren’t all the way to where they need to be yet, but now they can move forward, figuratively and literally.


After debriefing with the team, Berry was ready to chat and without being asked a question, he got right to it regarding the crash that took him out of a transfer spot.  “Well, I stepped on it.“, he said with a laugh.  “That one is all on me.  I learned a lesson that hard way there.“, he shrugged.  He explained that he had actually slowed entering turn 3 more than he had been, with a plan to turn down across turn 4 to get a run off the bottom and take a shot at third place.  When he got back on the throttle, it shoved the nose up the track and got him over the cushion, ultimately leading to the crash.  Wisdom says, take the transfer spot and move on.  Lesson learned the hard way.  


Asked for his final thought on the day, without hesitation Berry said, “I can’t wait to get back here next Saturday.”  I can understand why.  I think Austin Berry Racing is about to make folks take notice.  


ABR’s only race of the coming Easter weekend will be at Port Royal Speedway on Saturday, April 3rd.  It will be Camera and Autograph night at Port Royal Speedway, which means the pits will be open early so all fans can visit the pit area and get up close with the cars and teams.  Gates open at 3pm.  Please stop by, say hello to Austin and pick up a shirt or hoodie!  We have some sizes still available of our 2020 apparel and from the Racing For Time Pancreatic Cancer campaign car as well.  We will have the Berry’s Siding & Seamless Gutter, Locust Hill Custom Butcher Shop,, Nathan Berry Beef Farm, A&C Racing Engines, Ontime Body & Graphic, Swift Springs, Hoosier Tire Mid-Atlantic, VP Racing Fuels, Rocket Chassis XR1 No.86 ready to tackle the Speed Palace!


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