What a wild week it has been for Josh Berry who was thrust into the difficult position of being a relief driver for NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, Chase Elliott.
Berry was tapped to hop in the No. 9 Napa Racing Chevrolet after Elliott received a fractured tibia diagnosis Friday evening. Elliott underwent successful surgery that night to repair the injury Friday night and is due to begin his physical therapy on Monday Morning.
Shortly after receiving the news, Hendrick Motorsports went to their Xfinity offshoot program in JR Motorsports to find relief driver, Josh Berry, driver of the No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevy. On Saturday, Josh Berry qualified the No. 9 Napa ride in the 32nd position and then raced his No. 8 Xfinity car to a 5th place finish later that afternoon.
You Need To Know:
- The Las Vegas trip marked Josh’s third start in the NASCAR Cup Series. Berry previously started races for Spire Motorsports in their No. 77 and No. 7 entries at Dover and Michigan in 2021. He finished those races in the 30th and 26th spots respectively. His debut with Hendrick Motorsports marked his first ever start in the now-year-old NextGen Car.
- With Berry’s first two starts being in what is widely considered to be lack-luster equipment, many within the NASCAR industry and fanbase alike were curious to see how he’d fare with in a top-notch ride with Hendrick Motorsports. It did not take long, however, for any hopes that he would be competitive in the No. 9 to disperse. Berry seemingly struggled in the ride, going a lap down very early on. After an incident getting into the wall and into Ty Gibbs, Berry brought the No. 9 Chevy home with a 29th place finish.
- This will certainly be a disappointing showing for the No. 9 crew as all three of Berry’s Hendrick teammates finished in the top-3 with William Byron in the No. 24 Raptor Chevy taking home his fifth career victory. With the team’s primary driver being the sport’s Most Popular, there was a lot of fan attention around the driver swap this weekend. Many fans were excited to see what Berry could do in a top-notch car. Considering that he didn’t even match his career best Cup finish he got in one of the Spire cars in 2021, it’s safe to say it left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans.
While Berry’s performance today in the Penzoil 400 was not ideal, he is not the only Xfinity regular-turned Cup driver to struggle with this NextGen car. Ty Gibbs (who got in a little scuffle with Berry, causing his right front to go flat) finished 22nd in his No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing while JRM teammate, Noah Gragson, brought his No. 42 car for the Legacy Motor Club home in the 30th position.
This begs the question as to just how much more difficult is this NextGen car to adapt to for veterans in the second-tier Xfinity Series?
The Main Character
Josh Berry, who was thrust into the No. 9 Camaro this weekend, brushed the wall and Ty Gibbs. He came home in 29th while his teammates finished 1-2-3.
NAPA, who had their primary driver replaced this weekend due to injury, reported on Berry getting some encouraging words over the radio from D’Hondt.
The No. 9 Team’s Twitter page reminded fans that Berry was the one driving the car today, not Chase Elliott.
The No. 9 Team on Twitter announcing to fans that Josh Berry came home in 29th.
In The Stands
This Chase Elliott fan floats the idea about doing something different come Phoenix.
Austin on Twitter floats the idea of having Justin Allgaier. It wouldn’t be the first time he filled in for an injured driver.
John points out that Josh Berry did well considering his lack of experience in the NextGen car. This begs the question: Is the NextGen that much more difficult than the Xfinity cars to drive?
Alt24 beg for Chase Elliott to return sooner rather than later.
Chris is in favor of keeping Berry in the car stating that even NASCAR Champion, Bill Elliott, would perform about the same with his equal lack of experience in the NextGen car.
JoJo feels back for Chase having to watch his car run in the back but also applauds HMS’s 1-2-3 finish.
IYKYK criticizes Berry as “awful”.
Duke defends Berry’s run here today. Considering that Gibbs also struggles with the NextGen car but was completely dominant in Xfinity last year.
The Start Finish Line points out that Berry’s finish wasn’t all that bad considering his lack of experience in the car and short notice. Hey, at least he finished the race and was only 2 laps down!
On Your Screen
Prior to the Penzoil 400 at Vegas, Eric Estepp from OUT OF THE GROOVE predicted for Josh Berry to finish 12th. Needless to say, he was wrong.
From The Pressbox
Nascarcasm on Twitter promoted Chase’s father, Bill, for the seat if Berry “doesn’t work out”.
Jonathan Fjeld captures Berry spending time with his family just before the race. He points out that Berry had ZERO competitive laps in the NextGen Car.
Kelly Crandall reports that crew chief Alan Gustafson told Berry to “Go have fun” prior to the drop of the green flag.
Matt Weaver reports that after Josh Berry got into the wall, the car felt more-or-less the same. As dificult as these NextGen cars are to drive, they sure are built like tanks!
ThePitCrewOnline gives this Lap 100 update.
Alan Gustafson Fans tweets that Josh Berry’s Engine No. 9 is feeling a lot better than it did on Saturday, though still running a little tight.
Following his Stage 2 stop, the team tells Berry that it’s the “best we’ve been”.
We likely won’t know until Tuesday what HMS’s plans are for the No. 9 car going forward. We do know that Chase Elliott is expected to be out “several weeks” meaning that a relief driver is needed for the foreseeable future.
Should the team stick with Berry or go another route? Berry was best to fit into Elliott’s seat this weekend which was already in the car but now HMS has an entire week to prepare if they decide to go in another direction. Only time will tell. If Berry stays in the car, however, remember, there’s nowhere else to go but up.