FONTANA, Calif. – In his debut at Auto Club Speedway, Josh Berry gives JR Motorsports their second top five result of the Performance Automotive Group 300 with a fourth place result.
“We had really good pit stops,” Berry credited. “Our guys did a great job on pit road and got me some track position. We finally had a couple restarts where I was able to hold some track position and get up there toward the front. I feel like we would have had a shot at (winning) if it went green. I’ve just gotta get better on the short run. I think my long run pace is good, so I’ve just got to get better on the restarts. That’s a work in progress.”
It also marked the return to the southern California 2-mile oval for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The series put on quite the show, with various pit strategies, close stage finishes and multiple overtime attempts before the checkered flag flew under the lights. Despite being 31-years old, Berry still feels young in the series.
“I raced a lot last year, but I’m still pretty green to the Xfinity Series,” continued Berry. “I should have been more patient early on. It’s tough on these restarts.”
It wasn’t just the end of the race that brought some excitement. Many drivers dove into the wide turns and side-drafted down the long straights. It caused some to lose momentum and drop more than one position. Others took a spin from loose cars and contact. Ty Gibbs spun on the front stretch after contact with Daniel Hemric attempting to aggressively side-draft. Landon Cassill had issues to force him to retire from the race after eight laps.
Berry bump-drafted Austin Hill down the front stretch but upset the No. 21 car, unintentionally swinging him into the outside fence. Hill had to pit multiple times and tried to get back on the lead lap, but ultimately finished 27th, off the lead by three laps.
“I want to apologize to Austin Hill and the 21 team,” stated Berry while shaking his head. “I just got too far left of him, then hit a bump and turned him around. I really hate that for Andy and the guys. Just an honest mistake on my part, so hopefully he can understand that but I know he’s mad. He got in a hole there and I was honestly trying to help him. I did not see that one at all. I feel so terrible.
“That’s part of it, I guess.”
During the wild overtime attempts, the field was placed under the red flag after Brandon Jones hit the sand barrels at the entrance to pit road. After 23 minutes of repairs, engines were refired and sent to what would be their final restart. Even then, one of the blower trucks skimmed the front corner of Berry’s car.
“The truck ran over the left front, I think he barely got the splitter,” Berry chuckled in disbelief. “I was watching it thinking it would be close. I was actually pleased with how that final restart played out. We were just too tight on the bottom, but we got a good restart and finished P4.”
JR Motorsports announced in August that Berry would drive the No. 8 Chevrolet full-time in 2022. After the first two rounds, he now sits seventh in the standings holding 63 championship points, putting himself in strong contention early on for the regular season championship.