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Any time a JR Motorsports driver wins a race, the entire organization comes together to celebrate the accomplishment. The win flag goes up. Beers are toasted.
That tradition includes its late-model program.
Well, Josh Berry has been a part of the team for more than a decade and is responsible for 86 late-model wins.
“We used to do the beer toast,” JR Motorsports co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller told NASCAR.com. “But dang, when you win every weekend, it gets to be a little out of hand.”
Safe to say Berry‘s name is well known around the JR Motorsports complex. If somehow it wasn‘t, it‘s bound to be now.
Last Sunday, with the culmination of the Xfinity Series‘ rain-postponed event at Martinsville Speedway, Berry won his first NASCAR national series race. The victory came in his sixth of 12 planned starts this year in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.
The part-time deal was presented after Berry won the 2020 NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series championship for JR Motorsports‘ late-model team. Before this season, Berry hadn‘t driven a Xfinity Series car for JR Motorsports since 2016.
“I felt like I was almost facing a near-impossible task, going straight from a late model into a Xfinity car,” Berry said. “At times, I felt that pressure and I felt that, I guess, difficulty trying to make that move that I have. Now, to have won, I think it really shows how good the people I‘ve been racing are and how ready I was for the opportunity.”
Between the 2014-16 season, Berry raced in five Xfinity Series events for JR Motorsports — highlighted by a seventh-place finish at Richmond Raceway in 2015. Otherwise, he placed ninth, 12th, 13th and 25th.
Then, nothing. Berry returned to late models.
“To be honest, I kind of felt like at that point maybe I was just going to be a career short-track racer,” Berry said. “Lots of victories, lots of championships at that level. I thought maybe that‘s what was going to be my path, maybe that‘s what I was meant to do.”
And he was OK with that. Berry never felt like his time was wasted in the late-model ranks. He was still learning and having fun — on top of being successful.
He taught others how to be successful, too. Berry is a mentor in the JR Motorsports‘ driver development program. The late-model team has two cars, so Berry would pilot one and help his teammate adjust to the other. Berry has worked with current NASCAR Cup Series drivers William Byron and Anthony Alfredo, along with Camping World Truck Series driver Christian Eckes. Berry even assisted Sam Mayer, who will take over the No. 8 entry in the Xfinity Series later this summer after Berry‘s time is up.
“Others can see how good our program is and see why it‘s good: because Josh is a part of the program,” Earnhardt Miller said. “… Sure, he‘s wanted to be William Byron. He‘s wanted to move up. But to sit and be patient in that position just says a lot about who he really is and how grounded he is.”
Said Berry: “Being 30 years old with a family, you have to look at those things and you can‘t necessarily pout because you have to step aside at times and teach these guys. You got to enjoy the opportunity to learn and better yourself because you never know what‘s ahead.”
Berry has six more Xfinity Series starts with JR Motorsports left in 2021. The goal for this season was to win a race — check that off the to-do list. He‘d now like another win. Preferably at a 1.5-mile track to show he‘s capable on intermediates, not just the short tracks he‘s familiar with from his late-model experience. Maybe even longer; his next race is at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway on April 24 (4 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
After this stint is over, Berry will continue to race late models when and where he can.
There‘s the future to consider, though. A full-time ride within NASCAR for 2022 is the goal. Berry would like to remain with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, and the team has expressed the same desire. How that would work remains unknown, as the organization debates whether it wants to break into the Cup Series. In the meantime, Berry is trying to secure sponsorship by performing his best with the opportunity he has been given.
“I just really enjoy racing — the competition of it, all the people and relationships that you build along the way,” Berry said. “It‘s just what‘s I‘ve always known really. Even if I wasn‘t driving, I can‘t imagine myself not being involved in motorsports.”