JOSH BERRY, No. 4 SunnyD Ford Mustang Dark Horse – HOW HAS THE TRANSITION BEEN WITH HAVING EDDIE D’HONDT AS YOUR SPOTTER?  “Thankfully, for me, I have a little bit of experience with Eddie driving the 9 last year, so I think that’s gonna ease the transition there, but, really, more than anything I think it’s easy to maybe overanalyze the situation, but I think we can use the Duels as a great practice session and then you obviously work through those and then we’ll have Friday and Saturday to make any adjustments that we need.”

WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF WATCHING VIDEO ONCE YOU GET INTO THIS WEEK?  “I think, from my side of things, the biggest deal is just him pointing out what he sees and why he sees it, and that helps just build a little bit more confidence in me and what he’s seeing and watching how these moves materialize.  I think that’s just the biggest thing is striking up that conversation and getting on the same page and just starting to build that confidence working with each other.”

WHAT HAVE YOUR EMOTIONS BEEN LIKE GOING INTO YOUR FIRST 500?  “It’s super exciting to come here.  Even when I think back to being a kid and watching NASCAR and watching racing.  The first race I really remember watching was the Daytona 500, the ‘97 Daytona 500.  That’s the race that sticks out to me, so I’ve said that a couple times over the off-season, so I think that’s cool and I just remember being a kid and watching all the build-up to this race every year after the off-season to come here and get excited to watch the race.  It makes it mean a little bit more.  Obviously, it’s the biggest race of our year, but emotionally to be here and participate in this is really cool.”

IS IT SURREAL?  “I don’t know if it’s necessarily surreal.  I guess based off the last couple of years and everything that’s happened, I guess that I always felt like anything was possible, but it’s really cool to be here without a doubt.”

DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING ABOUT THIS WEEK THAT YOU’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST?  “I think really just all of it.  The family and I, I drove our bus down a couple days early.  We’ve been here at the track for a couple days with really not much of a plan.  We did go to Disney yesterday and we wore that out, but just kind of enjoying the experience and not rushing in and rushing out.  I’m just trying to enjoy it and prepare for it and now we’re here going through this and then qualifying tonight, so it’s time to buckle in and get serious, I guess.”

TONY SAID NOAH HAS BROUGHT A NEW KIND OF ENERGY.  YOU’VE WORKED WITH HIM BEFORE, BUT CAN YOU FEEL THERE’S A SPARK IN THE BUILDING?  “I think across the board, I mean, I feel like the excitement level has been high really the whole time.  My guys have been really excited and we’ve been just working through all the little things of getting ready for the season and obviously bringing Noah on board, I think, is a great addition.  All of us have been in the shop nearly every day working out together, working with our teams, doing social and marketing stuff, so I mean it’s just a really good environment right now.  I think that’s important to keep everyone jacked up and ready to go racing.”

WHO NEEDS TO DRIVE THE SHIP THERE?  “I’m not sure that there has to be a single person.  I look at Hendrick Motorsports and I don’t know that I feel like one specific driver drives the ship there.  I mean, everybody works together and all the teams work together and are competitive together as well, so I feel like we can do that.  I don’t think there has to be a clear-cut favorite or leader in the group.  I think we can all pull our weight and work together, work with our teams and keep a good relationship amongst all the drivers and crew chiefs and engineers and I think that will lead to success.”

YOU AND RODNEY HAVE SIMILAR BACKGROUNDS.  WAS THERE AN INSTANT BOND THERE IN TERMS OF COMMUNICATION?  “Yeah, there’s a huge mutual respect between the two of us just because of our background and his credentials in the Cup Series speak for themselves, too.  As I’ve been around him and worked with him more and more, I just have no doubt that I know exactly why he’s had the success that he’s had.  He’s super dedicated and meticulous and very, very good at his job, so I’m just really thankful to have someone like that leading my rookie season.”

IS THERE ANY PRESSURE YOU FEEL IN FILLING KEVIN’S SEAT?  “I think there’s pressure on all of us.  I think everybody in the Cup Series.  I don’t know in any situation I’ve ever been in my career that I didn’t have pressure that I had to perform well to keep my job.  This is no different to me and I think that goes for a lot of us in the Cup garage.  Everybody feels that pressure to perform and run well and filling Kevin’s role is a big one, but I’m not Kevin Harvick.  Kevin doesn’t expect me to be Kevin.  Rodney doesn’t expect me to be Kevin.  Everyone at SHR knows that I’m my own guy and I think that’s the biggest message that’s been to me is to be myself, don’t change what I do and just come in here and work with these guys and get ready to go racing.”

WERE YOU GRATEFUL TO GET SOME LAPS IN THE NEXT GEN CAR BEFORE MAKING YOUR DEBUT THIS YEAR?  “I think that’s a big addition.  I think obviously having that experience last year and not only just getting the experience in the car, but having several good results and winning the All-Star Open and having some success in there I think was a big boost of confidence and then on the same thing I think working with an organization like Hendrick Motorsports from inside and learning that and even working with two different teams throughout that there was a ton of knowledge and understanding that I gained about Cup racing through that time, so I think that is gonna prove to be a big benefit.  Ultimately, it’s still up to us to go out and execute and do what we need to do, but I definitely feel a lot more confidence having that experience for sure.”

IS THERE A TRACK COMING UP YOU FEEL YOU CAN ESTABLISH YOURSELF AND GET INTO THE SPOTLIGHT?  “I think at the beginning of the season, obviously these first couple weeks will be unique and the superspeedway pack style of racing I guess that we see in Daytona and Atlanta, but after that I’m excited to go to Vegas.  I’ve won there in an Xfinity car.  I’m excited to go back to Vegas with having a little bit of Next Gen experience and excited to see SHR as a whole and how we come out of the gate right at our first intermediate.  I think Rodney and all of the guys have been really excited for that.  We’re really working hard for that one, too, so we’re excited to go to all of them, really.  I think we’re just gonna have to work through it.  Obviously, I want to say the short tracks, but I think that we can be competitive anywhere.”

WHAT IS IT ABOUT VEGAS SPECIFICALLY?  “It’s just been a good track for me, really.  I think you feel good going into places that you’ve won at and been competitive at.”

DO YOU FEEL THIS YEAR IS ONE WHERE EVERYONE HAS TO BUCKLE DOWN AND GET THE SHIP TURNED AROUND?  “For sure and it’s understandable.  Tony has been a great leader and had a lot of success in this sport.  I can completely understand why he would say that he wants us to perform better.  That’s naturally as an owner what he’s expected to do and that’s what we expect of ourselves.  I don’t think any of us, I didn’t walk into this deal expecting everybody to pat me on the back and tell me how easy it’s gonna be and how nice they’re gonna be to me.  I knew it’s gonna be hard.  I know I’m gonna have to work at this.  I know we’re gonna have to perform. That’s what comes with Cup racing, the pressure of that and performing well and having success.  I think the reality of it is I agree with Tony.  We have the people there.  We have the infrastructure.  We have the engineers.  We have the crew chiefs.  We have everybody there that can go out and do great things and they’ve done it before.  We just have to get back in the rhythm with the new group and I know we can do it.”

IS THIS WHEN IT REALLY STARTS TO SINK IN WITH WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT TO DO?  “Yeah, I think so.  Obviously, everything that’s happened in the last couple of years has been amazing and the opportunities that I’ve gotten.  There have been so many people to help get me to this point and it really means a lot to be here in this moment.  It really means a lot to be here and have a Cup car with my name on it that I’m getting ready to race.  That’s really the best part about it to me.”

STERLING MARLIN IS A GUY A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK ABOUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE 500.  HOW DID HE INFLUENCE YOU GROWING UP IN MIDDLE TENNESSEE AREA?  “It was really cool watching him race growing up.  Honestly, his wins in the 500 were a little bit before I really remember watching it, but obviously knowing that he’s won the races and as I grew up racing at the Fairgrounds he was about as synonymous name with everything at the Fairgrounds as there can be, so it’s really cool to have a guy like that in the 500 from Tennessee.  It was a cool experience growing up for sure.”

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO GET TO THIS LEVEL AND BE THE NEXT GUY FROM THAT AREA TO COMPETE IN CUP?  “It’s really cool and growing up racing in that area was times that I think back very fondly in my career.  I’m excited to kind of be the next guy in line from there to race in the Cup Series, but we’re just getting started.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR YOU TO RACE AT THE FAIRGROUNDS?  “I think that would be awesome.  That’s a great facility and a great racetrack.  I think it would be a great experience for all of us.  I’m gonna go back there and race some way or other, whether it’s a late model car or a modified or anything.  I think it’s a great opportunity there.  Hopefully, they can work out what they need to work out and we can get back there in some form or fashion.”

HAVE YOU HAD THAT PINCH ME MOMENT AT ALL THROUGH THIS PROCESS?  “Not necessarily.  I’ve had a lot of time to prepare for this.  We’re closing in on maybe a year since a lot of these conversations and things started, so I’ve spent a lot of time to prepare for it.  I think the sky is the limit for us, really.  If I’ve come this far, I don’t know why we can’t keep going and that’s what we’re gonna aim to do.”

DID SEEING YOUR NAME ON THE DOOR OF THE CAR KIND OF HELP IT SINK IN?  “Yeah, that was pretty cool.  I’ve had a lot of opportunities and the majority of them my name wasn’t even on the car, so to see my own car and have my own group and work with my team, when you’re in those opportunities like with injuries and what not you know you’re on borrowed time.  You know that the more of a relationship you build with a team you know that it’s coming to the end, whether that’s in two weeks or a month or whatever.  So, to sit there and have a car with your name on it and your group and time to work together and build that relationship and get started with something is really special.”

WHAT IS IT ABOUT VEGAS THAT TURNS YOU ON?  “I really don’t know.  It’s just been a good track for me and I think just the first intermediate of the year is one we always have circled to try and see how we come out of the gate and perform.  Going there and having a little Next Gen experience, having a couple wins in the Xfinity car I think should be a really good opportunity for us.”

HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING PHYSICALLY THAT’S BEEN IMPLEMENTED TO LIGHT THAT FIRE AT SHR?  “Maybe not specifically.  Obviously, Ford bringing in a whole new car adds some excitement in there, and I just know slight changes with the processes and thoughts of how they communicate with each other and how each team communicates with each other.  I’m coming into the midst of this, so I don’t know how much it’s changed over the last year, but I know that everyone says that these guys are working closer together than ever.  I know as drivers the drivers are working as closely together as ever and we’re all pulling in the same direction.  We’re definitely not shying away from that, so it’s just gonna take a lot of work, but it’s like Tony said and I agree with Tony, we have the people there to do it, so we just have to go out and execute and get better throughout the year and get back to where they want to be.”

HE WANTS RESULTS.  “Yeah.  He’s Tony Stewart for a reason and I’m here for it.”

HOW HAS THIS TRANSITION TO FORD BEEN SO FAR?  “It’s been a great transition.  It’s been a change, obviously,  I look back on that time at Jr. Motorsports really fondly. I  wouldn’t be here without them without a doubt.  I wouldn’t be in an Xfinity car.  I wouldn’t be doing anything really if it wasn’t for those guys, but at the same time it’s been a fun change.  It’s been nice working with a new group and a fresh start.  I think the Xfinity season last year wasn’t what we wanted.  It was a struggle, so I think having a fresh start with a new group has been exciting for me personally.”

Ford Performance PR