By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
A strong run for JR Motorsports’ Josh Berry ended with a runner-up finish in Saturday’s Cabo Wabo 250.
The polesitter for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Michigan Int’l Speedway chased John Hunter Nemechek throughout the final stage of the 250-mile race. The mostly caution-free final stage of the race gave Nemechek breathing room over Berry, Justin Allgaier, and others.
While both Berry and Nemechek had issue-free green flag pit stops, Allgaier and Austin Hill both encountered issues. The No. 8 LubeZone Chevrolet Camaro SS chipped away at the lead. It wasn’t until a caution with 13 laps to go that Berry finally closed in on the leader.
On the final restart, the Hendersonville, TN native chose the inside alongside Nemechek. The closest Berry got to the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was about five car lengths back. A bad exit to Turn 2 put Berry in a battle with teammate Sam Mayer. Though he held off Mayer for second, it allowed Nemechek to cruise away for the win.
“I’m a little bit disappointed that we didn’t win, but I’m really proud of the effort of everyone at JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports have been putting forth,” Berry said. “We weren’t where we needed to be at the beginning of the year, we’ve made our cars a lot better through the middle of the season.
“I think, directionally, if we just keep doing what we’re doing that we’ll find ourselves in victory lane soon. Before the playoffs, to be building momentum like this is definitely a confidence boost.”
Though he started on the pole, Berry finished the chaotic first stage second. The 32-year-old finished Stage 2 in seventh. Luckily he was ahead of the chaos in both stages of the 125-lap race.
While Xfinity remains Berry’s focus for the remainder of the season, he was thrust into another substitute role in the NASCAR Cup Series just hours before the race. He’ll replace Noah Gragson in Legacy Motor Club’s No. 42 Chevrolet following the Cup driver’s suspension for liking a derogatory meme on social media. Berry qualified 35th for the FireKeepers Casino 400.
He will use Gragson’s seat in the Cup race as the two drivers are similar in stature. This is the third driver that Berry is filling-in for this season, having substituted for the injured Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott.
“It’s a tough situation, I found out at 10:00, maybe two hours before (Cup) practice,” Berry explained. “We’ll look at everything tonight and make a gameplan for tomorrow and just make the most of it.”
Berry’s second-place finish in the Xfinity race was his eighth top-five of the 2023 season. It was also the 25th top-five of his Xfinity Series career.
Despite the runner-up finish, Berry remains fifth in the points standings. He is 151-points behind both Hill and Nemechek, who are tied for the lead. Berry is 108-points ahead of the playoff cutline, currently held by Sheldon Creed.
Next for the veteran driver is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. He has just one start at the Brickyard’s famous road course, finishing 14th last year. Berry has three top-five and eight top-10s in 12 road course starts.
The Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis is scheduled for Saturday, August 12 at 5:30 p.m. ET on USA Network. The race will also be broadcast on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.