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Berry Set to Pinch Hit For Injured Bowman

(Photo: Josh Jones | The Podium Finish)

DOVER, Del. — For the second time this season, Josh Berry has an unexpected opportunity with Hendrick Motorsports.

On Tuesday, Alex Bowman suffered a compression fracture to his vertebra in a High Limits Sprint Car Series event at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa. According to Hendrick Motorsports, Bowman received treatment locally before an evaluation Wednesday in Charlotte, North Carolina. He’s expected to miss three to four weeks. The team will request a waiver for Bowman to remain eligible for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. He’s currently ninth in driver’s points.

Berry, the 32-year-old from Hendersonville, Tennessee, drove five races earlier this season in place of Chase Elliott when he fractured his tibia while snowboarding. He said that he’s more comfortable and prepared for the opportunity, although like before, the circumstances are less than ideal.

“It’s a difficult situation to step in again,” Berry said. “I hate that for Alex. He’s been a friend to me over the last couple of years. You never want to see anyone injured like that. The reality of it is I feel a little bit more comfortable than where we were sitting in at Las Vegas; having a relationship with everyone at HMS and working through a handful of races with the No. 9 [team]. I’m ready to go.”

While substituting for Elliott, Berry picked up a pair of top-10 finishes at short tracks. He came across 10th in his second race at Phoenix Raceway before the No. 9 team gambled on strategy at Richmond Raceway and gained late track position, leading to a second-place finish.

Despite success the last time Berry got behind the wheel of an HMS car, Berry said that his expectations haven’t changed.

“It’s hard to have too high of expectations when you step in this,” Berry said in a press conference Saturday. “I think my expectations are of myself, which is to give the best effort I can each and every week to be prepared to drive the race car and do the best job I can in the race car to limit my mistakes and be there at the end of the race.

“These guys are great. That’s what I learned the first time around. These guys are amazing to work with and they’re super, super smart, so I think we can hold our own.”

Though it’s the same organization, Berry will have to adapt to a new race team. He’ll be working with Blake Harris, the first-year shot caller for the No. 48 squad after a season leading Michael McDowell at Front Row Motorsports.

Bowman was arguably off to the best start of his career, recording six top-10 finishes in the first 10 races. Berry said that he hopes he can continue the consistency for the No. 48 team.

“My job in this situation is to just try and keep these guys going, prepared, happy and just ready to rock n’ roll whenever Alex gets back,” Berry said. “That was the mentality we took with the No. 9 and obviously they came back and hit the ground running. That to me, I think that shows a little bit of me in that moment of keeping the morale and everything up high. Obviously, these guys are off to a great start of the season and they are going to be championship contenders throughout the year. My job is not come in here and win every race. My job is to adapt and do the best I can and just keep everything pulling in the right direction.”

(Photo: Riley Thompson | The Podium Finish)

While Bowman is out of the car, he cannot earn driver’s points but Berry can earn owner’s points. The team will get prepared to hunt for a win when Bowman returns, which, Harris said, will be what gets them into the Playoffs.

“We’ve done a good job of just reacting with whatever has been thrown at us. This will just be another thing that we look back on and we’ll react accordingly,” Harris said. “As soon as he’s healthy and ready to come back, we’ll plug him back in and keep digging. From the standpoint of all those things and the momentum that we’ve had, I don’t look at that as being any different than what we’ve had. We show up every week with the plan to win races. We’re going to have to win races to get in the Playoffs.”

Berry will continue to balance his responsibilities with JR Motorsports on the Xfinity side, which is his main priority. He’s finished in the top 10 in eight of 10 races this season for the No. 8 team, including a third-place result on Saturday at Dover.

Xfinity is off next weekend at Kansas Speedway before returning in two weeks at Darlington Raceway. Berry said that it was difficult to manage everything while working double duty, but it’s something that he’s embraced.

“I tried to be present as much as I could with everything at Hendrick Motorsports and not leave anything on the table that I felt like I could have done to be better prepared and I think we did that,” Berry said. “You can only do so much in a week. It was definitely a challenge trying to manage all of that, but it’s been really important to me to be present with those guys, but also stay really present and involved with the No. 8 team and make sure those guys don’t feel like we’re leaving anything on the table there either.”

For now, despite injuries to two of its drivers, Hendrick Motorsports isn’t planning on making any changes when it comes to its drivers participating in extracurricular activities. Other teams, like Joe Gibbs Racing, have restricted its drivers to almost solely Cup Series racing. Hendrick doesn’t want to do that, but it echoes a simple message: “Be careful.”

“It’s difficult because that’s something Alex has a passion for. Something that he’s worked very hard to be better at and we feel like it helped him over here in the Cup Series this year,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports. “But for right now, there’s not going to be any chances to our policy, other than just be aware. The most important thing is to results on Sunday in the Cup Series.

“[Bowman is] obviously having the best year of his career in the Cup Series. This is a temporary setback and we look for him to come back strong.”

Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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