Josh Berry living up to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s expectations in NASCAR
Unlike last year, when Josh Berry was forced to start easing off the accelerator heading into the NASCAR Xfinity Series Tennessee Lottery 250, the Hendersonville native is picking up speed this year.
Berry, 31, was ending a part-time deal with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports in 2021 when he ran at Nashville Superspeedway, which he considers his home track.
Instead of winding down as he prepares for Saturday’s Tennessee Lottery 250 (2:30 pm, USA) Berry finds himself with a huge opportunity ahead. He’s revving up for what could be the biggest season of his career.
His 2021 performance for half of the season along with some fill-in races down the stretch convinced Earnhardt to sign Berry to a fulltime deal for 2022.
“Josh took full advantage of the opportunity he had in the No. 8 car,” Earnhardt said after announcing the deal in August. “He went out, raced hard and earned every bit of this. With all he’s accomplished on a limited schedule, I can’t wait to see what he can do in this series full time.”
Berry has not disappointed.
After finishing 17th in the Xfinity Series standings in 2021, he has climbed to fourth this year and leads all JR Motorsports drivers. He won at Dover International Speedway in April and Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.
Berry finished fourth in the last Xfinity Series race on June 4 at Portland International Raceway and is on pace to make the playoff.
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“Last year, coming into this race was kind of bittersweet and emotional because it was the end of that opportunity,” Berry said. “This year we’re more focused on the long haul. We’re in a really good spot in the standings and have our sights set on the playoffs.”
Berro attended Volunteer State Community College and worked at a Hendersonville bank before his racing career took off.
He got his start on the track in the Tennessee Karting Association. He moved up to Legend cars in 2006 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and went on to win 21 featured races there along with a track championship.
Berry considers himself fortunate that NASCAR returned to the Nashville area at the same time his pro racing career reached a new level.
“This is my home track; I grew up racing in this area of my whole life and it’s exciting to come back,” he said. “I’ll have a lot of family and friends who don’t normally get to see me race in person there. That adds some pressure and really just adds to the excitement.”
In 2010, Earnhardt added Berry to the JRM Late Model program, and later that year Berry was named Late Model Most Popular Driver by Speed51.com.
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.