Story By: HUNTER THOMAS / NASCAR – TIMMONSVILLE, SC – Coming off a 10th-place finish in a sports car at Daytona International Speedway, Chad McCumbee switched to a stock car and held off defending NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national champion, Josh Berry to win the IceBreaker at Florence Motor Speedway on Saturday.
McCumbee ran in the Grand Sport class during the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona International Speedway last week, before heading north to take part in Florence’s return to NASCAR as part of its Late Model Stock Car showcase event.
McCumbee started on the outside pole alongside of his teammate, Matt Cox. He ran inside of the top three for the majority of the race, but coming around to complete lap 78, he took over the lead for the second time of the afternoon as he passed Ryan Millington In Turn 4. McCumbee went on to lead the remaining laps of the 125-lap race, but he had to outrun Berry on two final restarts.
“I’m very proud of our effort,” McCumbee said. “I’m not going to be able to run a full season of Late Models this year, but this is one race that I had on the calendar that I wanted to do. I certainly got the season started off right.”
On lap 120, Justin Johnson spun Bob Saville in Turn 4, and McCumbee had to dive down low to avoid the accident. McCumbee chose the outside lane on the restart, and he cleared Berry once back to green; however, a lap later, the caution flew again for a multi-car accident heading into Turn 1.
“I was sick to see that caution with four laps to go, because I felt that my strategy had worked out really well,” McCumbee said. “Luckily, we still had enough, so that told me that we had made some gains.”
With just four laps to go, McCumbee once again chose the outside lane on the final restart of the afternoon. He cleared Berry again and went on to capture his first win at Florence Motor Speedway.
“Those guys are so strong,” McCumbee said about the field of drivers on Saturday. “Late Model Stock racing in general for the last year, the competition level was just out of control. The talent and the depth throughout the field. We got beat in November, and we came back with a lot of different stuff trying to get better, and we certainly are better.”
Berry finished second after starting the race in the fifth position. Early in the race, Berry fell back and rode just within the top-10. As the laps ticked away, the JR Motorsports driver began to make his way through the field. Berry had a hard time getting around Bobby McCarty late in the race, but the cautions in the final laps gave him an opportunity to battle McCumbee for the win; however, McCumbee was just so strong on the high lane on the restarts, that Berry wasn’t able to hang with him after the field made its way around Turns 1 and 2.
“That was tough,” Berry said. “I don’t know, we were good. We were good again and just lacked a little bit there. The top was a lot better than the last race here, and it just got really hard to pass. I don’t know. I just needed a little bit longer run there. I think to fire off, Chad fired off a little bit better than us, and he was able to get out enough and hold us off.”
McCarty finished third after battling Berry hard in the closing laps of the race. The side-by-side racing between the two drivers got physical, but McCarty was thrilled to bring his car home with a solid finish.
“It was good, clean racing,” McCarty said about battling Berry. “I enjoyed it. I would have liked it better if my car was better, but it was good, hard racing, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Matt Cox finished fourth, and Kaden Honeycutt rounded out the top five. Completing the top 10 was Millington, Austin Somero, Jonathan Shafer, Justin Johnson and Ryan Glenski.