Josh Berry made his fourth NASCAR Cup Series start of 2023 Sunday, and first at Richmond, replacing the injured Chase Elliott.
The CARS Tour veteran used his short-track experience to finish second behind teammate Kyle Larson.
Berry, despite his recent success, is not in the running four a spot in the NASCAR Cup Playoffs, as he's declared as running for the Xfinity Series championship.
It was an up-and-down day for Hendrick Motorsport’s fill-in driver, Josh Berry, in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway.
After starting in the back and even getting spun out, he brought it home a career-best runner-up finish, albeit with a little help from a bold strategy call from fill-in crew chief Tom Gray—likely relayed from suspended crew chief Cliff Daniels.
Berry made his fourth start of 2023 Sunday, and first at Richmond, replacing the injured Chase Elliott, who is still recovering from a snowboarding accident in which he suffered a broken leg.
Prior to Berry's second-place finish on Sunday, it’s been a mixed bag of results for the 32-year-old Berry in 2023. Las Vegas and Atlanta were tough races for him, where he finished 29th and 18th. Things turned around at Phoenix, where he finished 10th.
Berry clearly favors NASCAR's short tracks. Phoenix and Richmond clearly are tracks are Josh Berry’s wheelhouse. Berry cut his teeth on the short tracks as a long-time Late Model driver in the CARS Tour for JR Motorsports.
“Three years ago I went racing Late Models, never thinking that I would ever race in the (NASCAR) top three series again (or) finish in second in the Cup Race at Richmond," said Berry, who left Richmond fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings.
Sunday’s finish didn’t come easy for Berry, who finished third in the Xfinity Series race on Saturday.
In the Cup race, with no practice or qualifying due to rain, the lineup was set per the NASCAR rule book. That put Berry and the No. 9 team 30th on the grid. The first stage didn’t go so well for the team, in fact, things went backward after Berry got spun out on Lap 96, courtesy of Ryan Blaney. Berry finished 32nd in that stage.
“We were struggling a little bit, I got tight, I think,” said Berry. “And Blaney was coming through the field and just got into me really light. I don’t think he meant to do nothing.”
Berry rallied to finish 18th in the second stage.
“Really, once we (got to) the second stage, we started gaining some momentum, things got strung out, we were cutting some good lap times, we just needed to get up front,” Berry said.
So interim crew chief Tom Gray, who’s still filling in for the suspended Alan Gustafson, decided to keep Berry out during green-flag pitstops over the remainder of the race. Not long after, they got the caution and track position they needed for a quick dash to the finish.
When asked about the call postrace, Berry said: “I absolutely loved it, we needed some clean air, and these guys, they thought outside the box.
" And that’s what it takes in these races, you never know what can happen.”