- Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Josh Berry made his third start for Hendrick Motorsports as the fill-in driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 as Chase Elliott continues to recover from a fractured tibia.
- It was Berry’s fifth career NASCAR Cup Series start. He rolled off the grid from the 21st position and took the opening stage to adapt to superspeedway-style racing in the Next Gen car, ending stage one in 28th. The Hendersonville, Tennessee, native improved to 11th in stage two.
- During the final stage of the race, Berry was battling inside the top 10 when he was involved in a multi-car incident on lap 190. The team made repairs and Berry was able to rebound for an 18th-place finish.
Josh Berry qualified 21st for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. It was Berry’s third race filling in for the injured Chase Elliott as he continues to recover from a fractured tibia. Berry took the green flag for his first Cup Series superspeedway-style race and used the opening laps to get a good feel for his Chevrolet. The 32-year-old driver was scored in 20th when the first caution flag of the race was displayed on lap 11. Opting not to pit, Berry lined up in that same position after choosing the top lane and battled inside the top 25 once the race resumed. Berry got shuffled to the back of the main pack on lap 42, but was undeterred from the loss of track position as he made his way back up to 28th to close out the stage at lap 60.
During the stage break, Berry reported to the team that the NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet was a little free on entry, but the balance got better on the longer run. Interim crew chief Tom Gray called the Hendersonville, Tennessee, native to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Berry took the green flag for stage two from the 26th position on lap 68 and continued his forward progress, settling in behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson in the 21st position. Berry was running in 15th when teams began making scheduled green-flag pit stops on lap 127. The driver of the No. 9 stayed out until Gray called him in for a fuel-only stop on lap 138. Back out on the track, Berry made his way to as high as ninth before taking the green-and-white checkered flag in 11th to end stage two.
The No. 9 team made a stop for four tires and fuel under the stage-ending caution, sending Berry back out to start the final stage in 17th. After beginning the stage in the top lane, he made a move to the bottom and used that to his advantage to work his way to 10th on lap 182. Berry continued to race inside the top 10 until a multi-car incident occurred on lap 190, collecting the No. 9 Chevrolet. The NASCAR Xfinity Series regular was able to drive the NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet away and brought it to pit road for repairs. The team worked hard over the course of two pit stops to fix up the front-end damage, and Berry lined up 25th for the lap 200 restart. Less than 10 laps later another incident brought out the yellow flag, giving the team another opportunity to work on the No. 9. Berry was scored in the 23rd position for the restart on lap 216 and reported early in the run that the NAPA Auto Parts Camaro felt better after the most recent repairs. He battled hard in the final stint of the race, climbing his way back inside the top 20 and ultimately scoring an 18th-place finish in the 260-lap event.
“I thought it was a solid day for the No. 9 NAPA Chevy,” Berry said. “I feel like we definitely improved. We got up there in the top 10 and we were pretty solid before that wreck. After that, the car was just a little too damaged to be too aggressive. All-in-all, we finished the race, learned a lot and had some fun.”
Start / Finish: 21 / 18
Next Race: Sunday, March 26, Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas
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Founded by Rick Hendrick in 1984, Hendrick Motorsports is the winningest team in NASCAR Cup Series history. At the sport’s premier level, the organization holds the all-time records in every major statistical category, including championships (14), points-paying race victories (291) and laps led (over 77,000). Headquartered in Concord, North Carolina, the team fields four full-time entries in the NASCAR Cup Series, including the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 driven by 2020 champion Chase Elliott.