LAS VEGAS – Josh Berry is no longer 11 points below the cut line.
He will now compete for a NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship in Arizona after winning the Alsco 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“Had a caution with 30 to go and was able to wrestle the lead away from those guys and build enough of a gap to keep it,’’ Berry said. “I tell you, I’m just speechless.’’
That caution, being the only non-break yellow, came out when Brandon Jones spun. Despite no contact with the wall or another car, officials slowed the field for a 30 lap dash. Pit strategy came into effect with Landon Cassill staying out on older tires. He tangled with A.J. Allmendinger on the restart, opening the door for Berry to take the lead in the closing laps.
“It’s just really, really, really special, you know,” Berry shared. “When I started on this journey and found out I was gonna run full time this year, we all sat down at the beginning of the year and said that our goal was to make the championship for. We felt like we were capable of that. We knew what we could do. We knew there would be bumps along the road in my first full season. But we believed in our hearts that we could be at Phoenix.
“To accomplish a goal like that, it’s just really hard to put into words what that really means when you work day in and day out to be at this level and be better each and every day to be able to accomplish something like that. It’s truly amazing.”
What also worked in his favor was teammate Noah Gragson was stuck in the outside lane when that tangle occurred. Losing crucial momentum, he fell outside the top five and allowed Berry to build over a two second lead. Gragson started to charge through the field and got to second with just a few laps remaining. Ultimately, the point leader ran out of time as Berry snagged the first berth into the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway.
“There’s still a lot of work ahead of us,” he continued. “We want to get three other JR Motorsports cars to Phoenix and we want to get ready to go to Phoenix and have the opportunity to go win a championship.”
Justin Allgaier finished third to give JRM a 1-2-3 punch, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing completing the top five with Ty Gibbs and Trevor Bayne. Bayne collapsed on pit road, but was quickly treated and released from the care center. Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill, JRM’s Sam Mayer, Kaulig Racing’s Daniel Hemric, JGR’s Brandon Jones and Our Motorsports’ Anthony Alfredo rounded out the top-10.
Allmendinger was the only Playoff driver with a finish outside the top-10, after winning two in a row including last weekend’s Roval victory. In the closing laps, he suffered not one but two loose wheels, ending his day in the 22nd position, two laps off the pace.
One additional notable was NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standout Hailie Deegan, who made her NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Las Vegas and earned a very respectable 13th place finish in her first race.
Gragson now leads the standings by 19 points over Gibbs and 29-points ahead of Allgaier. Hill (-15), Allmendinger (-16), Jones (-29), and Mayer (-36) head into the next round needing to make up points with two races remaining – at Homestead-Miami and Martinsville, Va. – to set the four-car championship lineup for Phoenix.