Notes of Interest

● For the first time in Josh Berry’s NASCAR Cup Series career, he is attempting to make the non-points All-Star Race as a full-time premier series competitor. The 33-year-old rookie made his series debut with a pair of races in 2021, then filled in as a substitute driver at 10 races in 2023 – eight with Hendrick Motorsports and two with Legacy Motor Club. Berry did have the opportunity to race his way into last year’s All-Start Race at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway via the All-Star Open that preceded it, and the short-track aficionado did just that. He qualified second in the injured Alex Bowman’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports entry and won the 100-lap shoot-out on the .625-mile oval. As a result, Berry earned the 22nd starting spot for the 200-lap All-Star Race, from where he climbed his way to 15th by race’s end.

● Last Sunday, Berry notched his best finish since taking over the reins of the No. 4 Ford Mustang Dark Horse, a third-place run in the Goodyear 400 at Darlington (S.C.) Speedway. His previous best of 11th this season came in the March 31 race at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. Berry’s achievement at Darlington was all the more impressive as it came from the 33rd starting position. He quickly maneuvered through the field to finish 17th in the first stage, then continued his forward momentum in the second stage, in which he finished 12th. Berry’s third-place result is the best finish for the No. 4 team since the May Darlington race last year, when Kevin Harvick finished second. Additionally, Berry’s 30 positions gained made him as the biggest mover in Sunday’s race at the “The Lady in Black.”

● During this week’s All-Star festivities at North Wilkesboro, Berry will also turn laps on Wednesday night behind the wheel of the No. 4B KHI Late Model, owned by former No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick. Berry has a history of running well in the No. 62. During the offseason, he teamed up with his current crew chief Rodney Childers to run a pair of races, the first at Florence (S.C.) Motor Speedway last November, and the second at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway two weeks later. Berry started on the latter race, dubbed the 2023 Fall Brawl, on the pole and he finished third.

● During last year’s All-Star Race weekend, the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Ford bore the No. 29 en homage to the retiring Harvick’s car number during the first 13 years of his Cup Series career driving for Richard Childress Racing. Harvick started his final All-Star Racing 15th and finished 18th.

● Berry’s third-place finish at Darlington vaulted him into the points lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, 19 markers ahead of Carson Hocevar. Berry is currently ranked 21st in the overall Cup Series standings.

● Harrison’s returns to the No. 4 Ford Mustang Dark Horse this weekend, sporting the green-and-brown colors symbolic of hard work. The green represents grass and farm produce while the brown accents represent dirt and hard-working, blue-collar Americans. The Spartanburg, South Carolina-based clothing and footwear company has ridden to victory lane on two occasions with Berry in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – the first at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May 2022 and the second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October 2022.

Josh Berry, Driver of the No. 4 Harrison’s Ford Mustang Dark Horse

Coming off a strong run at Darlington to a short track where you raced your way into the All-Star Race last year in the No. 48, how do you and the No. 4 team continue to build on the momentum?

“I think the biggest thing our group is focused on is just continuing our process and maximizing the things we can control. Rodney (Childers, crew chief) and the guys at the shop have built really fast Ford Mustang Dark Horses for every short track we have gone to, which gives me a ton of confidence heading to North Wilkesboro. If we just stick to our process, prepare the best we can during the week, and go have a clean day, there’s no reason we can’t advance to the All-Star Race and do really well.”

How does running Late-Model races between the Cup Series races help you on Sundays? Is it more for fun, or do you use those races to sharpen your racing skills?

“Any time you can get more laps at a track we race at in the Cup Series, it helps. We have the simulator with Ford that gives us a pretty good idea of what we can run, but nothing beats being behind the wheel of a racecar and putting in time. I enjoy Late-Model racing, and being able to get more time in ahead of the All-Star Open will only help me learn the track, some of the little details that a simulator can’t show, and also just give me a chance to go have fun, right? These races are still ones we want to compete in and try to win, but ultimately, we want to have fun while we do it. It’s kind of double-sided – part fun and part practice.”

How do you think the different tire options is going to help the racing this weekend?

“It is interesting to me. I think it gives the field some opportunity to try different things and be aggressive at different points in the race, but it’s hard to say without any practice. I like the idea and I hope it makes for a good race, but without any prior experience, I think it is just hard to say it will go one way or another.”

How important is it that Goodyear continues to try new compounds and get aggressive with its experimenting this year?

“I think we all need to applaud NASCAR and Goodyear for trying something different. That is something we have all asked for and they certainly have taken some pretty significant steps to get in a better place with the tire wear. I think the All-Star Race is a great place to try things because it won’t impact our points standings and we can really use it as a chance to learn what can work and what can’t. So, yeah, I am all for Goodyear taking a stab at it and giving us something new and different.”

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Speedway Digest Staff
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