- Josh Berry earned a career-best NASCAR Cup Series finish, placing second on Sunday at Richmond Raceway. It was his fourth race filling in as the driver of the No. 9 while Chase Elliott continues to recover from a fractured tibia.
- With rain washing out Saturday’s practice and qualifying, Berry lined up 30th to start Sunday’s 400-lap race. He overcame adversity in the second stage, rallying to an 18th-place result during the segment after a spin on lap 95.
- In the final stage, the team’s strategy of staying out during scheduled green-flag stops paid off when a late-race caution came out while Berry was scored in the fourth position. A fast pit stop by the No. 9 team gained the Xfinity Series regular two spots on pit road, setting Berry up to restart from the front row.
- The Hendersonville, Tennessee, native held onto the second spot until the checkered flag waved, earning his first runner-up finish in the Cup Series.
Josh Berry made his fourth start for Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday at Richmond Raceway, filling in for the injured Chase Elliott. With rain washing out NASCAR Cup Series practice and qualifying on Saturday, the field was set according to the rulebook. Berry lined up 30th to start the 400-lap race on Sunday afternoon. He took the opening laps to get a good feel for the NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The 32-year-old driver was scored in 26th at the time of the lap-30 competition caution. Under the yellow flag, Berry reported that the No. 9 Chevrolet was loose in and off the corner and good through the middle of the turns. After pitting for four tires and fuel, Berry lined up 20th for the restart on lap 38 and dropped back one position before an on-track incident brought out the caution on lap 45. Staying out, Berry restarted in 19th and tried to hold on to a top-20 running position, but fresher tires prevailed as the run went on and he ended stage one in 32nd on lap 70. He relayed that the NAPA Chevrolet was still loose in and out and of the corners and was tight in the center, so the team opted to make an air-pressure adjustment during its pit stop for four tires and fuel.
Berry took the green flag for the second stage from the 26th position and was trying to work his way forward when another car made contact with his and he spun on the exit of turn four on lap 95. The Xfinity Series regular avoided contact with the wall and brought the NAPA Chevrolet to the attention of his crew for four-tire pit stop. He lined up 32nd for the restart and steadily improved his position, moving into 24th on lap 120. Just 20 laps later, interim crew chief Tom Gray called Berry to pit road for a scheduled pit stop for four tires and fuel. Being one the first to pit road, Berry used the fresh tires to his advantage and made up ground on the field. Once pit stops cycled through on 167, he was scored in the eighth position. As the run went on, cars on fresher tires started to close in. Berry was running in 12th when Gray called Berry to pit road on lap 185 as part of a two-stop strategy. After receiving four fresh tires and fuel, the Hendersonville, Tennessee, native made his way back out on the track in the 29th position, one lap down. As the stage went on, Berry’s fresher tires made him faster than the leaders and he managed to unlap himself in the final few laps of the stage, taking the green-and-white checkered flag in 18th.
During the stage break, Berry reported that the No. 9 was on the free side that run, so the team made a chassis adjustment during its pit stop. He left pit road in the 16th position and lined up there for the restart on lap 240. Once the green flag waved for the final stage, Berry held his own inside the top 20 and was in 17th when teams started making green flag stops. Gray called him in on lap 289 for four tires and fuel and once stops cycled through, Berry was scored in 17th and was in that same position when the caution flag waved on lap 305. The team made a stop for new tires and packed the No. 9 full of fuel. Berry restarted from the 16th position on lap 312 and advanced his position to 14th as the run went on.
The field started making green flag pit stops on lap 348, but the No. 9 team opted not to make a stop and kept Berry out on the track. He took over the lead for the first time in his Cup career on lap 357 and even though cars were on newer tires, he still stayed solidly inside the top five once some of them caught him. Then, an opportune caution came out with just 28 laps to go. The entire field came to pit road and a fast four-tire stop by the No. 9 crew helped Berry gain two positions. He lined up second for the restart with 21 laps remaining and held onto the position through another caution period. On the final restart, Berry got a great launch and kept leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson within his sights but ran out of time. He ultimately took the checkered flag in the second position, scoring his first top-five finish in just his sixth career Cup Series start.
“Man, this is really cool,” Berry said. “I have to give all the credit to this NAPA team. Tom (Gray, interim crew chief), Alan (Gustafson, full-time crew chief) remotely, of course, and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. They made some great calls. When we got some clean track, we weren’t running bad lap times. I’m so glad they tried something different to get us there at the end. I felt like we were decent the whole time. Just getting in cleaner air (was key). We were free to race with Kyle (Larson). Man, what a huge day. You know, to come here and start in the back, no practice, qualifying, get spun out, work through the field like that, just second place, it’s pretty cool.”
Start / Finish: 30 / 2
Next Race: Sunday, April 9, Bristol Motor Speedway (dirt track), Bristol, Tenn.
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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.