By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
It was looking like a perfect ending in store for JR Motorsports Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.
Four cars aligned in second through fifth place with two laps to go. And with a rival team leading, it was four against one.
That was until Josh Berry and Brandon Jones made contact on the backstretch on the penultimate lap, spinning Jones’ No. 9 and throwing a caution flag. Shortly after, Berry ran out of fuel under caution, falling off the lead lap.
Austin Hill was the eventual winner as JRM’s Sam Mayer flipped from the lead after a block by teammate Justin Allgaier.
So, yes… that was not the plan for JRM’s four-car stable.
The contact between Jones and Berry started it all and it fell on the shoulders of first-year JRM driver Jones. His No. 9 Chevrolet threw a block on Berry, leading to a wild spin through the infield grass.
“Josh [Berry] got a really good run and I knew that was my only shot to do a race-winning move,” Jones said, who settled for 14th. “It was a little bit late to the block. Nothing Josh did wrong. Nothing I did wrong, in my opinion.
“It’s just a racing situation at this track. I never have had a car that good and capable of pushing that well. He has to stay committed and I have to do as much as I can to block that run.”
Though ill-executed, Jones knew the door was closing on making a move for the win.
“You need to be leading this thing by the white flag,” he said. “I wanted to start working a little sooner, we didn’t have a number that we wanted to drop down.”
For Berry, the sophomore JRM man also feels little regret, as he made his move with Mayer pushing behind.
“I got a huge run down the backstretch and I was gonna go to the bottom and hoped the No. 1 [Mayer] went with me,” Berry said. “Brandon was a little late on that block, obviously. The last thing I want to do is spin one of my teammates. I felt like I was plenty far enough on him — I don’t feel like I did anything wrong.”
Though fuel was cause for concern for multiple drivers, only Berry ran dry for JRM, pushing his No. 8 to 26th on the finishing grid.
“It didn’t really stumble or anything. It just died,” he said. “That was disappointing but, we were aggressive on the green-flag stop. It got us the lead, but we cut it too close.
“Ultimately, we did go too early. The [Nos.] 21 still won, I ran out of gas, the 1 car flipped and the 7 lost.”