Josh Berry Earns Runner-up Finish At Richmond Thanks To A Total Team Effortby Hunter Thomas April 2, 2023 2 comments
RICHMOND, Va. – In only his sixth-career NASCAR Cup Series start, Josh Berry finished runner-up to Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kyle Larson in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on Sunday.
Berry, who has made a name for himself in the grassroots level of racing has been piloting the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet while Chase Elliott recovers from an injury that he sustained while snowboarding. The Hendersonville, Tenn. native has been doing quite well, keeping the car clean and even scoring a 10th-place finish at Phoenix Raceway.
On Sunday, Berry had one of his toughest challenges yet. Due to rain washing out qualifying, Berry had to start the race in 30th. Berry started further back in his Hendrick debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway; however, the expectations to perform are a little higher now. Berry has grown up racing around tracks like Richmond, so starting 30th didn’t hinder his forward momentum, but the road to finishing second wasn’t an easy one.
As Berry was making his way through the field, he was turned by Ryan Blaney while exiting Turn 4 on Lap 95. Berry spun but luckily, he didn’t make any contact with the wall or sustain any damage from the grass along the frontstretch.
In the third and final stage, Berry made significant ground thanks to pit strategy that kept him out on the track and earning valuable track position. A caution for Tyler Reddick spinning on Lap 373 positioned Berry with a great opportunity to run up front During the final pit stop of the day, Berry’s No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports crew gained him two spots on pit road, lining him up alongside of Larson on the front row.
“I have to give all the credit to this NAPA team,” Berry said. “Tom (Gary, interim crew chief), Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) remotely, of course, and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. They made some great calls.”
The field went green with 20 laps to go, but the caution immediately flew when William Byron was turned by Christopher Bell in Turn 2 on Lap 381.
Once again, Berry restarted on the front row beside Larson. In the closing laps, Larson just had the strongest car as he led the final 25 laps of the race. Berry held is own and finished an impressive second-place, earning his first-ever top-five in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“When we got some clean track, we weren’t running bad lap times,” Berry said. “I’m so glad they tried something different to get us there at the end. Felt like we were decent the whole time. Just getting in cleaner air. We were free to run with Kyle. Man, what a huge day.”
Berry continued and said, “You know, to come here and start in the back, no practice, qualifying, get spun out, work through the field like that, just second place, it’s pretty cool.”
A timeline for Elliott’s returned hasn’t been announced, but he did have a successful surgery to repair his left leg. For now, Berry is the driver who will continue piloting Elliott’s car. This poses an opportunity for Berry to earn valuable seat time and make a name for himself while he can. Next weekend, he’ll face a really unique challenge as he’ll go dirt racing at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway will broadcast live on FOX at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 9.
Photo Credit: Mitchell White/TheFourthTurn.com