Notes of Interest

● Josh Berry takes on the second leg of the West Coast swing Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, where he’ll be bringing back the bright colors of SUNNYD to his No. 4 Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Stewart-Haas Racing for his second career NASCAR Cup Series start at the desert mile oval. The 33-year-old rookie has five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix, which resulted in one top-five finish, three top-10s, an average starting position of 9.6 and an average finishing position of 13.2. He finished outside the top-15 just once in Xfinity Series competition at Phoenix. His lone Cup Series start came last March, when he was subbing for an injured Chase Elliott. He started that race 17th and finished 10th.

● Berry and his fellow Cup Series competitors tackled the first intermediate track on the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – the site of Berry’s second career Xfinity Series win in 2021. The Tennessee native qualified 26th last weekend after battling record-high winds in the Las Vegas area and got to work making up ground throughout the 400-mile event to finish 20th. He arrives at Phoenix second in the rookie standings, 11 points behind leader Carson Hocevar.

● Crew chief Rodney Childers heads to Phoenix Raceway this weekend with Berry and the No. 4 team for his 35th race as the shot caller in the NASCAR Cup Series with a deep history of success at the desert mile oval. The veteran crew chief has amassed an impressive five wins and 12 top-five finishes (all with retired Stewart-Haas driver Kevin Harvick), 23 top-10s (19 with Harvick, and two each with drivers Mark Martin and David Reutimann), and three pole positions (one with Harvick, two with Martin). Childers and Harvick scored top-10 finishes in all 19 of their starts together at Phoenix, from March 2014 through last November, for an average finish of 4.32 across those starts.

● While Phoenix is not considered a short track, the driving style on the mile oval requires a finesse similar to that of most short tracks the NASCAR Cup Series visits. Berry, a renowned short-track racer during his days driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr., as part of the JR Motorsports Late Model program, amassed an impressive 95 victories in his 262 starts with the team, with 189 top-fives and 219 top-10s. Berry was also the NASCAR Weekly Series champion in 2020, finishing every race but one inside the top-10 that season.

● The No. 4 team brings back the sun for Sunday’s race in the Valley of the Sun. The team will sport the vibrant orange and blue colors of SUNNYD, the most refreshing orange drink in existence, on Berry’s Ford Mustang Dark Horse. SUNNYD debuted with the team at the non-points Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum in Los Angeles and the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

Josh Berry, Driver of the No. 4 SUNNYD Ford Mustang Dark Horse

Heading to Phoenix – a place where you’ve had success in the Xfinity Series and where your crew chief, Rodney Childers, has had 19-consecutive top-10s – what are the expectations of the No. 4 team knowing there is a wealth of success within the team?

“It’s exciting for starters. It’s one of the tracks we have circled on our calendar to see how we stack up and it’s just a fun race for me. Obviously, Kevin (Harvick) was phenomenal there – I think it was his best track statistically – so it’s going to be hard to match that right off the bat. What it has given me is a lot to study and learn from so, hopefully, I can apply those things when we get there. I feel good about all of those parts and my team’s preparation and progress we have made. We just have to go out there and execute and I don’t see a reason we can’t leave Phoenix with a top-10 under our belt too.”​

You made a NASCAR Cup Series start with Hendrick Motorsports least year at Phoenix and notched a top-10 finish. How was the Cup Series car different than the Xfinity car?
“There’s a number of things that are so different mechanically that they are just so different to drive and learn and I think that is the biggest thing. The competition is so tough in the Cup Series, so it means a lot to go finish in the top-10 when I made that start. It was a big challenge having to jump between the Cup car and the Xfinity car, but getting that finish in Phoenix was a big deal and something we were all proud of.”​

You’re currently second in the rookie of the year standings. Has your goal or mindset shifted after the first three races to climb the ladder and earn more points?

“I think the goal of rookie of the year is still a viable option. I think getting through the first three races was a good test for where we are and I think we saw a lot of potential there to get better. We know where we need to improve and get better in the places we talk about day in and day out to execute. The biggest thing we’re focused on is executing our days and I know that in time, the finishes will improve because this is a strong group. We’re getting better and learning more about each other every day.”​

You’ve got a new rules package at Phoenix – a simplified rear diffuser and a higher rear spoiler – what do you know about it and what are your expectations of how it will change the racing?

“I’m not really sure. I wasn’t a part of any of the testing or data gathering during the off-season to really understand how it will change. I think that from my side of things, I haven’t put too much thought into that in general. I think Phoenix, from a driver’s standpoint, is till going to be Phoenix and it’s going to require the same thoughts and techniques that it would in most all of the cars that will race there. For me, I just want to be the most prepared as I can be and let Rodney and the No. 4 group figure out the rules and build the car.”​

The restarts at Phoenix can get a little crazy – how do you manage your level of aggression and your positioning on the track, especially late in the race?

“It’s hard and so much can happen that is out of your control. The biggest thing for me is to study those restarts and see which moves are good and which aren’t. Not every restart is going to be perfect, especially if you’re in the pack, but it’s just important to have the right mentality about making those moves and also keeping your car clean, especially early in the race.”​