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Josh Berry Gets His First Xfin Win

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 11 2021

Josh Berry celebrates his Xfinity Series race at Martinsville on Sunday. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Josh Berry, the winner of Sunday’s rain-delayed Cook Out 250 NASCAR Xfinity race, is no silver-spoon driver.

Nothing has come easy for the Hendersonville, Tennessee, driver known best for his prowess on the short tracks. He’s a 10-year veteran of JR Motorsports’ Late Model program, an operation that he has helped turn into a national powerhouse while coaching drivers now competing in the Cup and Xfinity series. He captured the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national championship last year, winning 27 races in 40 starts. He also claimed the $30,000-to-win Old North State Nationals in the CARS Tour. In the CARS Late Model Stock Car division, he leads in career victories and is at or near the top in most of the other categories for the series, including career money won, poles, top-five finishes, laps led and average start.

In 2019, Berry dominated the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 late model event at Martinsville, earning the pole with a track qualifying record and then leading every lap. It’s that short-track knowledge that paid dividends for the 30-year-old driver on Sunday, enabling him to become just the third driver to acquire his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at the paperclip-shaped, half-mile facility. The first was Brett Bodine in 1985 and the second was Jeff Burton in 1990.

“This is unbelievable,” said Berry, who led four times for 95 laps in the 250-lap race that constituted his 14th career start. “It’s going to take a while for this to soak in. 

“Coming to a place like this you feel more confident in yourself because you’ve been here, but there are still just so many unknowns. So as confident as you want to feel coming to a place like this, you still don’t feel confident.

“I was scared I wouldn’t win. I’m 30 years old. I should be ready to win. The only chance I’ve got is if I win.”    

Berry’s opportunity in the Xfinity Series came because team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. believed in him and brought the man, who had no family funding to race beyond Legends Cars, to North Carolina to race his late model. Earnhardt began his career racing late models, working on them and towing them to the track. He knows and understands the short-track racer’s struggles and the talent that often goes unnoticed because of limited finances. The competitors who don’t possess the financial silver-spoons needed to advance into NASCAR’s three national touring series. Earnhardt desperately wants to provide those drivers a path for them to pursue their dream of stardom at stock car racing’s top level and that’s why Berry’s accomplishment Sunday struck such an emotional cord with him. In fact, he admitted he was so nervous that he couldn’t watch the race’s final laps.

“I’d never felt that way about a race, even when my dad raced,” Earnhardt said. “I’d never been so nervous about a finish. We (Earnhardt and wife Amy) cried some happy, happy tears. Our whole house was in tears today. I have never cried like I cried today over racing, anything I ever did or my dad did.   

“The reason I was so emotional was because this has been such a long work in progress. It’s taken a lot of years to get to this point. I just wanted this for Josh. We weren’t sure if we would ever get the chance to give Josh enough opportunities. We gave him a few here and there. Getting a ‘shock the world kind of win’ in those one opportunities that comes along once in a while are tough to do. But we had a little string here of a dozen races for him to run and I thought maybe we can have something special happen during this span.

“This sport can take you really, really down. It can lift you way, way up. This is one of the highest, highest days I have experienced.”    

Now, for Berry, perhaps Sunday’s 0.590-second victory over teammate Noah Gragson will be the beginning of a new chapter in Berry’s career; a chapter that Earnhardt has wanted for years for the competitor who elevated his late model team to national prominence. Only time will tell. 


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 11 2021
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