Josh Berry’s impressive performance in Friday night’s Virginia529 College Savings 250 garnered major kudos from team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Dave Elenz on what was a strong night overall for JR Motorsports, placing all three cars inside of the top 10 with Chase Elliott earning his first win of the season. Berry drove the No. 88 Speedco Chevrolet to a seventh-place finish in the 250-lap event at Richmond International Raceway, marking his first top-10 finish in only his third-career NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) start and first of the season.
Berry showed speed from the time he arrived at the 0.75-mile oval, ending Thursday’s first and only practice session with the third-fastest lap time and earning a fifth-place starting spot in qualifying on Friday. That speed carried through to the race on Friday night, and the JRM rookie drove a great race from the drop of the green flag.
After two early cautions, the second of which occurred on lap 18, Berry radioed to the crew that the Speedco Chevrolet was a little too loose on corner entry and exit. After dropping to sixth on the initial start, he was able to maintain his position when the third yellow flag waved on lap 44, bringing the majority of the field to pit road. Elenz called for a track bar adjustment to help the handling on the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro, along with four tires and fuel, and Berry lined up eighth for the restart.
The race stayed caution-free for more than 80 laps and on the long green-flag run, the Speedco Chevrolet came to life and Berry drove all the way up to second, closing in on leader Brian Scott while turning some of the fastest laps of any competitor during that portion of the race. When the fourth caution occurred on lap 136, Berry reported that he was still a little too free, particularly early on in the run. Elenz directed Berry to pit road, this time for a wedge adjustment and another set of tires. He lost a few spots on the pit stop and restarted fifth, which quickly turned into a three-wide battle at the drop of the green flag.
Berry lost a bit of ground, settling into eighth by the time the next caution flag waved on lap 160. He reported that the Speedco Chevy was still too loose, particularly on restarts. The crew made another wedge adjustment to help tighten up his Camaro, and Berry restarted 11th on fresh tires. As was the case earlier, the No. 88 Chevrolet seemed to pick up speed the longer the run went on, and Berry was able to work his way up to the fourth position when the sixth and final caution occurred with just 34 laps remaining.
Elenz opted to help the slightly loose handling condition of the Speedco Chevrolet by not adding fuel to the car on the final four-tire pit stop during the caution period. Unfortunately, Berry was somewhat blocked exiting his pit stall by the car pitting in front of him and he lost five spots, causing him to line up ninth for the final restart. Things got a little wild as the field took the green and Berry dropped to 12th, but quickly regained his ground and went to work in the closing laps, picking up five spots for the seventh-place result.
The top-10 finish helped the No. 88 team advance one position to ninth in the NXS owners standings. Berry’s JRM teammates also had good results, with Elliott leading 83 laps to score his fourth career NXS victory and Regan Smith earning a sixth-place finish. Following Elliott to the stripe were Kyle Busch, Scott, Joey Logano and Erik Jones.
Josh Berry, driver No. 88 Speedco team
“Our Speedco Chevy was awesome tonight. We had a really, really good car on the long runs. It took me a couple of laps to get going on the restarts and that ultimately hurt us a little bit. I haven’t made many pit stops, which doesn’t help either, so we just lost a little bit on pit road. We passed a ton of cars tonight and I think we would have had a shot at winning this race if it had stayed green on that last run. Man, we were awesome on the long runs and I could keep the tires on it really nice. I’m just so proud of this team. They brought a great car here tonight. We’re looking for a partner to go full time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series next year, and I sure hope I helped that cause. I’m just a short-track racer at heart, so tonight really played into my favor. I’ve still got a lot to learn on these big tracks, but that was a blast tonight. I’ve got to thank Dale, Kelley and L.W. Miller for this opportunity, and everybody on this team and back at the shop for their effort and giving me a great race car this weekend.”