Some folks may have heard of Josh Berry if you’ve followed the late model racing scene over the past decade.
That was the case when he got the opportunity to drive for JR Motorsports once more in the Xfinity Series. Only this time, it’s not a handful races in non-consecutive seasons, but 12 races. While he’ll only drive until Sam Mayer turns 18 in June, Josh Berry is gradually making some noise in the garage.
Now, he’s remembered for two of the most memorable moments of the young NXS campaign. One he’d like to forget was telling IndyCar standout Santino Ferrucci that he’s number one at Phoenix.
The other is what everyone that was rooting for Josh Berry at Martinsville Speedway or at home will never forget. Even the man piloting the No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro will never forget the April 11th.
On a cloudy Sunday afternoon, Josh Berry was able to score his maiden NASCAR national touring win. To tell you the significance of his victory, his owner and greatest supporter Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was in tears. No question, it was a popular victory for the man hailing from Hendersonville, Tennessee.
Now, Josh Berry will shift his focus onto Talladega Superspeedway, a track synonymous with the Earnhardt family. Where not only he’ll look to continue his herculean momentum but compete in the Dash 4 Cash. Prior to the green flag for Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300, I had the chance to discuss with Berry.
Without further ado, here’s the latest installment of “Up to Speed.”
Shifting Gears to Talladega
Luis Torres: Before going to Talladega how’s things been since you’ve won at Martinsville?
Josh Berry: It’s been a great couple of weeks for us. I’ve been really grateful to do a lot of cool things and talk to a lot of people about our win at Martinsville. We’re getting to the point now we’re ready to go to Talladega and see what we do. We have a great opportunity with Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash, and it should be a lot of fun.
Torres: You’re going to be part of the Dash 4 Cash along with Noah Gragson. I know it’s been brought up a couple of times how Noah was one of the first people that congratulated you.
How neat is it to be a part of the Dash 4 Cash along with Noah? Hoping to not only just get a strong finish, but also be the top guy among the four.
Berry: Definitely. It kinda gives you an additional goal to chase when you get there. We obviously want to get a good finish. That’s obviously a goal every week, but that whole Dash 4 Cash thing is kind of interesting. For us, it would be a big deal to win that.
Hopefully, myself or Noah can get it for JRM. Me and Noah have become pretty close friends and I’m sure we’ll have the opportunity to work together throughout the race on Saturday.
More Than Just A Competitor
Torres: You’ve helped a lot of drivers from the JRM camp. Whether it’s behind the scenes or even at the track, what you’ve seen from Noah?
Berry: I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of different drivers throughout our late model program. This is kind of a different step for me being in the Xfinity car and working with my teammates.
Like I said, just me and Noah just got along. I think he’s a good kid and I think he has a lot of talent. He’s just fun to be around and enjoy working with him. I think me and him think alike when it comes to a lot of stuff with racing. It’s just been a lot of fun throughout this opportunity.
Torres: Do you take good pride on helping all these young kids out that they look up on you? Not just because of your track record in the short track world, but also your approach?
Berry: I think that’s an important part of our late model program. Being able to develop some of these guys. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t always had the opportunities like we would dream of. I still had a lot of success and I accomplished a lot of great things and have a great job. This opportunity has really been really big.
Over the course of all these years of short track racing and the success we’ve had. Working with these other drivers is kind of what led them to give me this opportunity.
I love working with them and I love getting to work with someone like Noah. And who has short track race and has a real respect and appreciation for the things that I’ve accomplished. I think that goes a long way.
Clawing for Opportunities
Torres: If there’s one competitor in the short track circuit you feel like will thrive on the (NASCAR) national level, who would it be and why?
Berry: Man, that’s hard to say there’s so many great ones that I know of. Probably the one that sticks out to me the most that I’ve raced with is Lee Pulliam. Multi-time NASCAR national champion, great short track racer.
Honestly, I was surprised throughout my years of racing with him that he didn’t get an opportunity, really at all. That’s kind of one that stands out to me that I would love to see what he could do. This stuff is hard. It takes a lot of experience to get going up front. That’s why you saw the mistakes and things that we had happened to us at the beginning of the season.
Torres: How difficult is it for a short track racer to stay composed?
Berry: It’s tough. You forget in these opportunities how long these races are and how much could happen. The main difference from like what I’m used to is there’s just so many more variables in these races. You got all the stages and the restarts and the pit road. Just all the different things that can happen to set you back behind you in a late model.
If you get a bad restart, you might lose a spot or two. In Xfinity, you could lose 10 or 12. It’s just a lot different and it’s just been hard. Especially with no practice and seeing all these places for the first time. All in all, I think, especially after winning, it’s went fairly well.
A Win for Short Track Racers
Torres: A lot of people we’re talking about your crew chief Taylor Moyer and owner Dale Jr. I want to know more about the (team) relationship you’ve had with Taylor and how it’s grown over time?
Berry: Me and Taylor have gotten along really well. I think we’re very similar personalities. We’re similar in age and kind of have something to prove. Really that whole team, Taylor wants to win just as bad as I do.
I think Taylor knows that I’m an accomplished short track racer and he has respect for that. He knows that I’m grateful for this opportunity and just want to do well for them. We really have got along from the start. There’s been no issues at all.
I try to be good to those guys and try not to complain a lot. I try to work hard and be there. Do everything I can to show these guys out how thankful I am for them. So, it’s been a good relationship so far.
Long Term Investment Worthwhile
Torres: Most certainly and it shows. I’d Imagine it will continue now with the win under your belt. It was a popular win for not just your competitors, your fans and of course “Boss Man” (Dale Jr.).
How humbling and gratifying is it to have someone that’s invested on you for the longest of time that it became emotional for him. Far more than his wins or his dad’s wins.
Berry: That was really special. I mean, Dale’s the reason I’m here. He took a chance on me and has given me lots of opportunities. This 12-race opportunity, I think had a lot to do with him. We came off an amazing season last year (in the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series). I think he felt like that this was the time he gives me an opportunity.
Just to be able to win, that was the home run of what we were trying to do. I think he knew how hard this would be. I knew how hard this would be. We just felt like we can be competitive, get some good runs and you never know what happened.
As badly as we wanted to win, we knew how tough it would be. So, to be able to accomplish that is just really been amazing. It just feels really good to be able to do that for him.
The Coveted Grandfather Clock
Torres: Where do you have the Martinsville grandfather clock? I know Eric Goodale, who won the (tour) modified race, is keeping it at his house. Then there’s some that give it to their crew members or team owners.
You won already at Martinsville before Xfinity, so what’s the mindset to put that huge grandfather clock?
Berry: That’s an amazing trophy. It’s really special and I was lucky enough to win when they’re in the late model car and have one. I’m still working on where to put the second one. It’s been at JRM ever since we won, but eventually it’s going to go to my house.
We’re not really sure where we’re going to put it yet, but I guess it’s a good problem to have. I’m sure one day if we move or something along the lines, we can pick out a little more permanent spot for it.
Torres: We go back to Talladega. What is your expectation? What did you learn from Daytona that you could adapt to Talladega now that you ran a superspeedway track?
Berry: I learned a ton at Daytona. You just kind of have to learn on the fly. We spent a lot of time watching tape and preparing for that race and you just kind of got to learn on the fly really.
I think we did fairly well that we found ourselves in some good spots towards the end and learned as we went and found herself in a good spot. I feel a lot more optimistic about Talladega just because I’ve got already got six races on my belt. I’m much more comfortable with the team and the car and, just the environment of the Xfinity Series. I think that should help a lot.
Like I said, Daytona was a big step. That was not only my first superspeedway race, but that was also my first Xfinity race in a good while. With a new team and everything. Getting back in the groove of all that is gonna play in our favor on Saturday. We’re just going to do the best we can and see what we can do.
Torres: The superspeedway races have kind of been Kaulig Racing’s strong suits. I’d imagine the goal is to stop them from continuing their momentum. Knowing there’s a big picture in the owner’s championship.
Eyes on the Big Picture
Torres: You’ll be running your races, Miguel (Paludo) will run some of the road courses, and Sam Mayer once he’s eligible. How neat is it to be a part of a team where you and others do their part? Hoping the (No. 8) car makes it to the Car Owners Championship 4.
Berry: That’s not really been something we talked to a whole lot about. Unfortunately, we’ve had kind of a lot of misfortune that really just made points not really a priority for us. Obviously, the win helped. I locked him into it, gave him some bonus points. That’ll be good for them to have the opportunity to go do that. I’m sure they’re paying attention to it and really just wish them all the best when they get there.
Torres: What is primarily your main go-to music that kind of keeps you motivated up on race day? Especially now it’s just essentially race day compared to late models where there’s plenty of practices going on.
Berry: It’s definitely different than what I’m used to. I’m used to, with the short track stuff. A Lot of practice and preparation with the car where I’m kind of hands on. The Xfinity stuff has been different and just kind of really relying on myself to get ready.
I listen to kind of all kinds of music. I’m not really a huge music guy. I enjoy it. I’m from the Nashville area. So, you know country and stuff like that is something that I listen to. But really, I like it all. I’m really not too particular.
Advice for Young Short Track Racers
Torres: Now the last question I have goes back to driver development. If you were to tell anybody that is in late model world, what would be the grand advice you would give them? Now that you have lengthy experience on the national level and hoping to expand on it in the future?
Berry: I guess really the one thing that stands out to me. What I would like to see more of these younger guys do is stay in your late models. Cut your teeth in, don’t rush yourself up the ladder, enjoy those times and it’s going to be tough.
It’s tough for them kids because they’re young and they’re learning their craft. Learning how to work with a team, you know? Take that time and honestly, you’re racing like a lot of guys like myself. That have been doing this a long time. Kind of the local hero guys, and there’s a lot that can be learned there. Don’t rush yourself up through the ladder, enjoy those times and try to really absorb it.
Then, you know, I think your path through the ranks will become a lot easier. You take a guy like me, that’s literally just went from a late model to a Xfinity car. So, it’s possible to do for sure.