AVONDALE, Ariz. – Saturday’s Xfinity Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway proved to challenging for Josh Berry, who finished an agonizing 14th, ending the season fourth in the final standings.
For much of the afternoon, Berry’s No. 8 Tire Pros Chevrolet Camaro was running free and quietly, trailing the other three Championship 4 contenders.
While Ty Gibbs was setting the pace after winning the opening two stages. Berry ended up fourth and 10th respectively, the worst out of the title contenders each time.
It was a matter of time when Berry would stand on it and work his way towards the title battle.
“The first stage went all right for us. We worked our way to fourth. Some of those guys had pitted, but then lost some track position on pit road and just got mired back in like 10th,” Berry on the first two stages. “Then made a pretty big swing at it finally. We were just behind on adjusting all day. We should have just been more aggressive on adjusting it, even from yesterday. I just didn’t have it there when it counted.
“Got up there to fourth a couple times, but we were kind of just hanging on to those guys. Like I said, just a tough day, but you’ll have those in racing.”
Once the final stage got underway, Berry was patiently running stellar which is part of his driving style. Things would go south on the final restart of the season.
Berry spun his tires which put him in a vulnerable position as cars frantically tried to make most of his slip up.
Once he entered Turn 1, he hit the wall which sealed his fate. Consequently, Berry went from being in fair position to battle with his title competitors to 23rd.
“Just a tough situation right there. I think the restart before, AJ (Allmendinger) got to my right rear and got by me on the right side and it seemed to be widening out,” said Berry. “I guess I could basically say that I just made a mistake there and got too high, or had a moment, but really I had full intentions of running up there to try to create some momentum for down the backstretch.”
From that point forward, it was about bouncing back and would ultimately reach the top-15. In spite of the effort, Berry was not able to catch a break and lost the championship.
At the end of the day, Berry felt it was a long weekend where the No. 8 team was not quite on par with JR Motorsports teammates Noah Gragson and Justin Allgaier and newly crowned Xfinity champion Gibbs.
“We had a long day, long weekend really,” Berry commented. “I just felt like maybe if we could get a good restart, get up front, maybe we could make something happen, but obviously that didn’t work out. Wish I could have that one over again, but it’s hard to — like I said, we just didn’t do what we needed to tonight.”
With his first full-season on the national touring level, Berry said he can look back at this season fondly and learn from the experiences of battling for a title.
“It’s been a great experience obviously going through the playoffs the first time and my first full season getting here. You hate to come this close or come this far and not have a good race like you want. But unfortunately in this format there’s one winner and three losers. Sometimes that’s just how it goes,” Berry explained.
“The reality of it is we know there’s going to be some personnel changes coming on at JR Motorsports and we have to work through all that the next couple weeks and try to make a plan and be better next year.”
Berry noted that next season will be different with the departure of crew chief Mike Bumgarner. It is a matter of time how the team will adapt to changes in order to get back into the Championship 4.
“We’ve had some conversations over the last couple weeks, and obviously Luke (Lambert, Gragson’s crew chief) is leaving, too, so that opens up two positions there that we have to fill,” said Berry.
“In a way, I kind of have an idea of what we’re doing there, but we plan on at least to my knowledge, I think we’re going to iron that out here in the next week or two. That way everybody over the off-season knows what the plan is. So we’re working through that, and I’m sure we’ll have some news pretty soon.”