Sunday, October 5, 2014

Champions feature 1

(NOTE: This was the first of two stories on Hickory Motor Speedway's seven division champions in 2014.)
Big season was sweet for Berry
By Tom Gillispie
Josh Berry says he set high goals for this season at Hickory Motor Speedway, and he wound up exceeding them.
“We had a great season,” he said. “I was never worried about points racing; I was just worrying about wins. I’m very hands-on about the car, and that made it more stressful. You don't want problems to be your fault.”
Still, he won the points titles in Late Model and the Paramount Kia Big 10 Racing Challenge. He beat William Byron, his Jr Motorsports teammate, by 68 points for the track championship and Dillon Bassett by 50 for the Challenge.
“We wound up winning eight times at Hickory and one at Southern National,” he pointed out. “Six (wins) would have been a real success.”
Berry is one of Hickory’s seven division champions this year, joining Kevin Eby (Street Stock); Matt Elledge (4-Cylinders); Bob Park (Classic Sportsman); Kenneth Roberts (Renegades); Spencer Boyd (Super Trucks), and Taylor Stricklin (Limited Late Models).
When Berry ran the Aug. 2 Nationwide race at Iowa Speedway, he was “a little bit” worried that might have ruined his championship chances at HMS.
“Still, I felt we could still do it,” said Berry, a native of Hendersonville, Tenn., but now a resident of Concord. “But I couldn't have any bad races, couldn't have any failures or wrecks. I knew that if I did my job we could crawl back.”
They not only crawled back, they rolled ahead.
Berry says he’ll run in the Late Model race next month at Martinsville Speedway, in the 150-lap Fall Brawl at Hickory and perhaps in a Late Model race at Myrtle Beach in November. He also may drive Jr Motorsports’ Nationwide car at Homestead in November.

MATT ELLEDGE, 4-Cylinder
Elledge, who lives in Statesville but keeps his shop in North Wilkesboro, says he had two goals this season.
“This year, my main focus is the points championship (in the 4-Cylinder division) and to win as many races as possible,” Elledge said.
He got his championship, but it wasn’t easy. Eddie Gilbert, Chase Pollard and others made it tough, and he had a wreck “four or five races into the year,” he said, that made his task harder. “It totally destroyed the front of the car.”
Former racer Randy Canipe let him use Canipe’s old car for one race, and he and his dad David replaced the front end of their car.
“I worked a 50- or 60-hour job, and then we worked on the racecar,” Elledge said. “We fixed the car in three weeks time, so I didn’t miss a race. My third race back, I won the race.”
Elledge won the season finale from the pole to clinch the title by six points over Gilbert.
“This past Saturday, we got the car where we wanted it, and I was able to race hard,” he said.
On clinching the victory, “It was a pretty big relief,” he said. “To go into the last race with a lead with a huge deal for me.”

SPENCER BOYD, Super Trucks
Boyd won eight Super Truck races this season, but he was disqualified in one of them. He went into the finale two points behind Whitney Lail. He finished second, with her third, so they wound up tied in points.
He won the title on victories, seven to one.
“It was a good season,” said Boyd, 19. “The one DQ (disqualification) left me fighting at the end. I knew I had to beat the 7 truck (Lail), and I was cautious Saturday.”
Boyd gave a lot of credit to his crew and to car owner Scott Whitaker, whom he met because of racing Legends cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“This year I learned a lot with Scott,” Boyd said. “We were able to get better and better.”
Boyd calls the trucks a “good learner division,” but he says he’s not sure what he’ll race next season.
“It would be nice to run 20 races; I’d like to run Late Model,” he said.

NEXT WEEK: Kevin Eby, Bob Park and Kenneth Roberts.

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