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Josh Berry’s Move to Cup is Bittersweet

Josh Berry

(Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

When Josh Berry walked into the Stewart-Haas Racing shop for the first time this off-season, it signaled a new chapter in his career. He’s now a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver, taking over the No. 4 car for the retiring Kevin Harvick. He’s in a position that any young stock car racer would have dreamt of.

But at the same time, Berry leaves behind a long legacy at JR Motorsports, an organization that got him in this position in the first place.

“There’s a lot of emotion of being here. I’ve been at JR Motorsports since 2010 in several different positions,” Berry told The Podium Finish before his final races with the company. “Just a lot of great people all across the board, from the men and women in the shop, upstairs, late model program, Xfinity program … A lot of great people that I’m gonna miss that I’ve worked with and worked alongside for a long time.”

Joining the team’s late model program at age 20, Berry dominated at short tracks throughout the southeast. He won the 2017 CARS Late Model Stock Tour title, and with 22 victories, became the all-time wins leader in the series. In 2019, Berry won the prestigious ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, known as the top late-model stock race in the country.

However, outside of a few starts, Berry never got an opportunity in one of NASCAR’s national series.

Heading into 2021, owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. surprised the Hendersonville, Tennessee native with a massive opportunity — 12 Xfinity Series starts. After winning at Martinsville Speedway in his sixth race, more opportunities fell in place. When teammate Michael Annett got injured later in the season, he took on five races in the No. 1 car and won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway from the pole.

Berry got to run full-time in 2022, winning three races and making the Championship 4.

Standing near his hauler in the Martinsville infield, Berry took a minute to reflect. A lot had changed since his first Xfinity win two and a half years ago.

Josh Berry in his final race with JR Motorsports at Phoenix Raceway. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

“It seemed like for so long, I was kind of just plugging away and having a lot of success rates racing short tracks, but just never really could harness any sort of realistic opportunity,” he explained. “Within a couple of years, opportunity after opportunity after opportunity was falling my way. Whether that be the initial opportunity in the 8 [car], but then several along the way due to injuries and COVID and different things over the years. It’s pretty crazy.

“The Xfinity success has been really cool, but just the years of that late model program and how we turned it into what it is now with Carson [Kvapil]. That was a conscious effort over a long time. Just years and years of really kind of setting the bar in that form of racing — winning a lot of races and accomplishing all these goals that we would just continue to set out for ourselves. The fun part about that is you’re really, really hands-on in that in that program. That makes it mean even a little bit more.”

After falling short of the 2022 Xfinity title, Berry returned for his second full-time season. He was content staying with JRM. It’s all he’s ever known in stock-car racing.

On March 3, Chase Elliott suffered a fractured tibia while snowboarding near his vacation house in Colorado. Mere hours before practicing his Xfinity car at Las Vegas, Hendrick Motorsports asked Berry to replace Elliott in the No. 9 car.

Suddenly, Berry’s season started to get a bit more sophisticated.

In five starts for the injured Elliott, Berry recorded a pair of top 10s and nearly stole a win at Richmond Raceway. He and crew chief Alan Gustafson played perfect pit strategy, running long under green and catching a caution.

Though he ultimately finished second to Kyle Larson, Berry used the opportunity with HMS as leverage. When Alex Bowman got injured shortly after Elliott’s return in April, Berry did four races with the No. 48 team and won the All-Star Open at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Josh Berry wheels the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports car to a win in the All-Star Open at North Wilkesboro Speedway. (Photo: Kevin Ritchie | The Podium Finish)

“When I look back on my career as I start going Cup racing, I think that played a real pivotal part in landing me in the 4 car,” Berry said. “We had conversations with them before, but basically, I got a full-blown audition right in front of everybody at that time. It was a big deal to get that opportunity and get a couple of good finishes like we did and run well.

“I look back on a number of things throughout that opportunity. Obviously, that finish [at Richmond] was great, but there was several races there that we ran inside the top 10. Some of them, we finished in the top 10. Some of them we didn’t. I thought over the course of that whole experience, it went well and we ran well. I think that was kind of more of an improvement of myself more than anything, not necessarily just one result.”

On June 21, SHR officially announced Berry as the next driver of the No. 4 car. He’ll work with Harvick’s long-time crew chief Rodney Childers, who Berry is familiar with in the late model ranks.

“I have a great relationship with Rodney,” Berry said. “As we are starting to work more and more and work on things for next year together, I’m just even more positive than ever that we’re going to have a great relationship there. I’m excited for it. I know that they haven’t, as a company, had the season that they wanted, but they’re working extremely hard to get better and we’re all seeing the improvements over the course of the year. I’m excited to get over there and get to work. I know we’re gonna have a great group on the 4 team.”

Still, Berry felt he had unfinished business with JRM. He owed it to the company to try and end on a high note. With half a season remaining with the No. 8 team, he could shelve Cup racing for now and focus on an Xfinity Series championship.

But not everything played out like he would’ve hoped.

Berry ended up going winless in his final Xfinity season, making an exit from the playoffs in the first round. Overall, the numbers weren’t far off from 2021 — only two fewer top 10s (18) compared to the year before. He had just failed to make it to victory lane.

As a whole, JRM struggled to contend for victories early in the season. The organization didn’t win its first race of the campaign until late May with Justin Allgaier. But later in the year when JRM found more speed, Berry was plagued by bad luck and execution issues.

Josh Berry at Pocono Raceway in July. He won the pole and led 51 laps before crashing on the final lap contending for the win. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

“The playoffs have been really tough. Really every race other than the ROVAL has just been kind of a disaster,” Berry said. “Ending this time at JR Motorsports and everything going on, that’s made it really difficult. But everybody’s been really trying hard. Everybody’s been working hard trying to get everything going better.

“We’ve had some speed at times, noticeably. It’s been so noticeable when we get everything going in the right direction, we’ve been really fast. We’ve just had a number of things not go our way.”

Berry exits JRM with a bitter taste in his mouth competition-wise, but as he transitions to a new phase of his career, the entire organization is behind him. After all, it’s not about how it ended. It’s about the long-term success he brought to the company and the friendships along the way.

‘This whole relationship has been spread out over close to 15 years and one tough season doesn’t outweigh all the good times,” he said. “Everybody was super happy for me, I feel like. They play a huge part in why I’m here and why I’m getting that [in Cup]. Not just opportunities in the Xfinity Series, but even with the late model car and everything we did for years and years and years over there on that side. All kind of put that together and helped point me in the direction that I’m headed. I know that there’s a lot of people at JR Motorsports that are really excited for me.”

As one door shuts, another one has officially opened for the 33-year-old — where he’ll finally get to chase his Cup dream.

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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