By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Josh Berry and his JR Motorsports team turned early race struggles into a top-five finish in Saturday’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help a Hero 200.
At the start of the first run of the race, the No. 8 Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Boats Chevrolet Camaro SS faded outside of the top-10. Berry was too loose to fend off his fellow NASCAR Xfinity Series competitors at Darlington Raceway. That forced crew chief Taylor Moyer and the team to take swings at adjusting the car.
By the final Stage of the race, Berry had reversed his fortunes. He climbed up the running order with the car handling better. The Hendersonville, TN native snuck by teammates Justin Allgaier and Sam Mayer as well as fellow Chevy Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Sheldon Creed.
Aided by late-race cautions, Berry maneuvered his way into fifth. He remained there by the time the checkered flag waved in overtime, holding off a charge from fellow NASCAR Playoffs hopeful Riley Herbst.
“We just really struggled at the beginning (of the) first run and in practice we struggled with the same thing,” Berry explained. “We fell off a lot in our practice run and we saw the same at the first run of the race. It was extremely frustrating but I’m not going to say surprising, but we just got to a point there. We just had to start swinging at it and the guys made a bunch of really good adjustments.
“We really, really tightened up the car a lot and got it driving much better and then from there on out we just executed a really good race, executed on the restarts, pit crew did an awesome job gaining the spots pretty much every time. We just fought ourselves back to the top-five. So, feel like at the end our car was pretty solid. I think we’ve proven to ourselves countless times if we can get the balance right, we’re fast enough to win, and we know that going into the playoffs, so we just got to keep chipping away at it.”
The struggles that Berry faced in Saturday’s race were reminiscent to those that he faced in the race in May at ‘The Track Too Tough to Tame.’ However, in May his recovery was aided by a pileup that collected over 10 cars. In the penultimate race before the start of the playoffs, he made the passes without the aid of massive crash.
While the two races played out dramatically differently, Berry believes that there is much he can take from this race in how the team responds to handling difficulties and improve the car.
“(In) the Spring Darlington we weren’t great either and we kind of got saved by that big wreck and got some spots there,” Berry admitted. “But today we earned that without a doubt. We passed a lot of cars and executed a really good race.
“It’s something to build off of. I think we know where we need to be better. The intermediates have been good for us the last few weeks. This has been a tough track for me over the last couple of times we’ve been here, so lots of positives out of the day. We just can’t start that far off. We need to have more track position and score more stage points going into the playoffs.”
Although he didn’t earn any Stage points, Berry did clinch a berth in the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. It marks the second consecutive season in which the 32-year-old has made the Xfinity Series post-season.
Next for Berry is the final race of the regular season in Xfinity, the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway. In two starts at the 1.5-mile track he has one top-10 finish.
The Kansas Lottery 300 is scheduled for Saturday, September 9 at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC. The race will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.