CONCORD, N.C. – Josh Berry’s goal of gaining experience and learning as the race went on paid off at Phoenix Raceway with his first top-10 finish in the NASCAR Cup Series.
In his second start filling in for the sidelined Chase Elliott, Berry capitalized on two late-race restarts to finish 10th. That result makes him the 29th driver to earn a top-10 finish for Hendrick Motorsports. He is also only the seventh driver in the last 15 years to score a top-10 finish within his first four Cup Series starts.
The effort put in by the 32-year-old and the No. 9 Kelley Blue Book team paid off nicely with the Phoenix result. The NASCAR Xfinity Series regular, who drives for affiliate team JR Motorsports, was in the car as a last-minute replacement for Elliott following the 2020 champion’s snowboarding injury leading into the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
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Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon was impressed with what he saw out Berry.
"It was great to see Josh get that," Gordon said of the Hendersonville, Tennessee, native’s first top-10 result. "That's going to build his confidence. I don't think anybody can explain how difficult a situation this is. To get out of a Xfinity car and hop into a Cup car that's so different is a big, tall task. We put him in a bad situation last week. This week, I saw him putting in the effort and the time, the sim, getting fitted in the seat, doing his homework. It really showed up."
Berry will be behind the wheel of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend as well as upcoming oval races. Road racing standout Jordan Taylor drive for the team at Circuit of The Americas on March 26. Earlier this month, Elliott had successful surgery on his fractured tibia and is expected to be out approximately five more weeks.
While Berry's time in the No. 9 entry may be temporary, he has prioritized communication development. That will be especially important with Atlanta becoming more of a superspeedway-style race following last year's repave and reconfiguration.
"This week, I’ve spent some time with Eddie (D'Hondt, spotter) and getting our communication better as well, which is going to be really important in Atlanta (Motor Speedway)," Berry said. "I think we just keep pushing in that same direction. We’re trending better and better each time we go on the racetrack."
Berry was the runner-up finisher in last summer’s Xfinity Series race at the 1.54-mile track in Hampton, Georgia. The next day, Elliott and the No. 9 team went out and won the Cup Series race.
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All told, Berry has two top-five finishes and three top-10s in 10 Xfinity Series starts at drafting tracks (Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Atlanta). Sunday’s race at Atlanta will mark Berry’s fifth in the Cup Series and his first on a drafting track in the sport’s top series.
Tune in to watch Berry and the No. 9 team compete at Atlanta on Sunday, March 19, at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).