AVONDALE, Ariz. — Josh Berry is making the most of a difficult circumstance.
Berry was tapped to drive the car at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend after Chase Elliott broke his leg in a snowboarding accident. The 32-year-old from Hendersonville, Tennessee struggled and finished 29th, but rebounded in his second race with the No. 9 team.
Berry finished with a top 10, navigating his way through two late restarts to gain multiple positions and notch his best Cup Series finish.
“It was a really solid day for the No. 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevy team,” Berry said. “We were able to improve a lot from what we had last week. We were able to stay on the lead lap basically the whole race.”
“We had a couple of runs in there that were really good. A couple runs where we fell back a little bit, but it’s just all part of a learning experience for me. These races are so long and I need to be able to learn this car a little bit better where I can give Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) a little bit better direction on how to help me.”
Berry had speed all weekend, qualifying 17th for Sunday’s United Rentals Work United 500. He finished 18th in the first stage and improved up to 15th at the end of the second stage.
With 10 laps to go, Harrison Burton crashed and brought out a caution. Berry, who ran 16th at the time, pitted and gained one spot off pit road. Another caution came out on the restart with three laps to go for Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Noah Gragson, setting up NASCAR Overtime.
Berry gained six positions over the final two restarts to record his best Cup result in four total races.
“At the end there, we were probably going to finish 15th or 16th, which I was still pretty happy with,” Berry said. “Obviously had the cautions there and we executed a couple of really good restarts there and was able to get a top-10.”
All four Hendrick Motorsports cars finished in the top 10. William Byron won for the second race in a row, Kyle Larson finished fourth despite leading 201 laps and Alex Bowman finished ninth. Bowman has top 10s in all four points-paying races and leads driver’s points by three over Kevin Harvick.
After two races with Berry in the car, the No. 9 team is 17th in owner’s points. Berry will return to the car on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, then Jordan Taylor will make his NASCAR debut at Circuit of the Americas. Berry will then get back in the car at Richmond Raceway and drive each race until Elliott returns. Elliott’s recovery is expected to last approximately five more weeks.
Berry will continue to drive his No.8 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Through four races, he sits ninth in driver’s points.
Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 is set for 3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.