Inland Northwest Sprint Car Association driver Tony Berry had not won a race in several years. That is, until he grabbed the checkers two weeks ago at Spokane County Raceway.
The Gonzaga University graduate followed that up with his second win last weekend and leads the INSCA points standings heading to the third race of the season, June 13 at SCR.
“It’s sure has been a long time in the making, but we’ll take it – that’s for sure,” Berry said.
Having been behind the wheel of late models, go-karts, midgets and just about anything else that goes fast, Berry has settled into a nice situation with car owner Mike Bartle and the No. 53 MacKay Spinal Injury Foundation sprinter.
Berry does miss the door-to-door style of late model racing and would jump at the chance to get back into midget cars, but home may ultimately lie in INSCA.
“Not staying in the Inland Northwest Super Stock Association where we had some reasonable runs is a little bit of a regret in not seeing through what we could do there, but one of my crewmembers (Bartle) bought a sprint car and one thing led to another – and I believe we have ended up racing in one of the two premier divisions in this area,” Berry said. … “From a competitive standpoint the sprint car made the most sense in the short run, but I won’t rule out something with fenders in the future. I’d still like to race midgets or late models if the right doors opened up.”
Berry is the INSCA points leader, but he has already conceded that a second championship will not be in the cards for this season.
“In years past we’ve chased points, including 2007, where we won the championship and didn’t win any races but ran with great consistency,” he said. “This year we have a new car and will chase wins and not points. … I am going to have to miss the July 4 race at Mission Valley Speedway (in Ronan, Mont.,) because I am getting married and the ceremony is on the coast and I really don’t have access to an airplane to get there after I am done with the wedding.”
Making life and racing choices has always come with careful consideration to the bigger picture. From his start in a family-owned karting and late model team to Bartle’s ride, Berry has been driven by purpose.
“A lot of people don’t choose the path I did when it comes to balancing racing with going to college and preparing for a future,” he said. “My parents really supported the karting commitments when I was young, but they always asked that I balance that with involvement in civic areas. … Being involved in some of those off-track civic functions opened some doors (for sponsorship, including the National Guard in 2006) and I was able to manage Gonzaga and racing, including racing 24 times in 2006, with the constant focus on school and civic activities first, then racing afterward.”
Through a friend of his fiancée, Leah Dotson, Berry has found a way to link racing and a civic endeavor during this season.
Berry will donate half of his race winnings to the Cory MacKay Spinal Injury Foundation, a charity that aids the Washington State University football player’s recovery from injuries sustained in a May 7 automobile accident.
“(The MacKay family’s life) has changed because of the accident and Cory not being able to move his legs right now,” Berry said. “All of that happened to them in the blink of an eye. They have so much to do, from remodeling their home to accommodate a man the size of Cory, who will be in a wheelchair for some time, to even finding a chair that fits him.
“It’s been very humbling, because he’s such a fighter and has a tremendous work ethic. Cory believes he will overcome, so we’re just trying to make sure he has the financial resources to do that.”