Notes of Interest

● Josh Berry heads to his home state this weekend for Sunday’s 500-mile race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. It will be the NASCAR Cup Series debut on the high-banked, .533-mile oval’s concrete surface for the native of Hendersonville, Tennessee, located some 295 south and west of Bristol on the outskirts of Nashville. Berry does have one Cup Series start at Bristol, albeit in last year’s April race subbing for an injured Chase Elliott when the concrete surface was covered with dirt. Berry has three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts and one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start on Bristol’s concrete surface. Best of his Xfinity Series outings was a seventh-place finish in September 2022, driving for JR Motorsports. His lone Truck Series start there resulted in an 11th-place finish in September 2021, driving for the Rackley W.A.R. team.

● The first-year Stewart-Haas driver and Cup Series rookie started racing go karts in and around his native Hendersonville at age 8 before making the move to Legend cars in 2006, scoring race wins and track championships over the next three years at his hometown Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

● Berry first made a name for himself on short tracks, climbing the ranks to earn his seat in the Cup Series by dominating at the grassroots level. During his days driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr., as part of the JR Motorsports Late Model program, Berry amassed an impressive 95 victories in his 262 starts with the team, with 189 top-fives and 219 top-10s. He was also the NASCAR Weekly Series champion in 2020, finishing every race but one inside the top-10 that season.

● Rodney Childers, the veteran crew chief of the No. 4 Ford Mustang Dark Horse team, will make his 35th Bristol Cup Series start atop the pit box Sunday. He was victorious twice with retired Stewart-Haas driver Kevin Harvick, the first win coming in the September 2016 night race. In that event, Harvick drove through the field after starting 24th and went on to lead 128 of the 500 laps en route to victory. The next win came in 2020, again in the September night race, when Harvick won in dominating fashion after starting fourth and leading 226 circuits. In total, Childers’ drivers have tallied 10 top-five finishes, 16 top-10s, and 927 laps led at Bristol.

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

You’re heading to Bristol Motor Speedway in your home state of Tennessee, and you have a deep history in short-track racing. Do you feel any kind of pressure as one of the drivers to watch this weekend?

“Bristol is a short track but it’s its own animal. It’s unique in how it races when compared to a Martinsville or Richmond layout. I think for us, we are going to keep preparing the same way we have each week. We try to prepare for as many scenarios as we can each week no matter the track. I think if we qualify well and have a clean day on pit road, the finishes will come and that’s all we can really do at this point.”

What memories do you have of watching Cup Series races at Bristol when you were growing up, and does it feel surreal that you are making your first Cup Series start on the concrete surface there?

“I remember going there in my teenage years and watching races there and it honestly was always a hot commodity to go there, so hopefully we can pack the place and put on a good show. Bristol is just such an iconic venue. It will be really cool to go compete there on the concrete. When Bristol is packed, there is a ton of energy, and you can feel it inside the car, which makes it so special for me being a home-state guy. Rodney (Childers, crew chief) has had a lot of success there, too, and I know he and I are both looking forward to getting there and seeing how we do.”

Robert “Cheddar” Smith said early on the No. 4 team is “just a bunch of Late-Model guys.” Does that give you an advantage heading to a short track knowing most, if not all of you, have a background in short-track racing?

“The biggest thing that it has helped with is our communication with each other. It’s honestly felt really consistent and easy to get through all of the early stages, where teams have to learn each other’s lingo. Rodney says it often to me about this whole process that he is learning more and more about how to evolve and get better to work with me compared to someone like Kevin (Harvick). It’s really been a positive experience and we all feel like we are moving in the right direction. We just need more time to keep growing what we have started.”

You’ve talked about Las Vegas being the litmus test for the intermediate package. Do you feel like Bristol will be the first true test of the NextGen short-track package?

“Bristol is so unique that I don’t think so – Bristol is Bristol, it’s just its own animal. I think it takes a unique preparation compared to other short tracks like Martinsville and Richmond. I think there are more similarities to a place like Dover than other short tracks we will go to coming up. That doesn’t mean we won’t learn about the setup, but there won’t be a ton that I think carries over to the other short tracks we have on the schedule.”