Berry Ends Whirlwind 2022 with Pair of Marquee Races

The Xfinity Series championship finalist has enjoyed a busy successful season.

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Josh Berry is closing out on a schedule that even Kyle Larson has to respect.

During a season in which Berry raced full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, coming up short in the championship race at Phoenix Raceway, the 32-year-old also began his season in January with a Super Late Model start at Speedfest, a Late Model Stock start in the Florence Icebreaker and four other starts in a Late Model Stock during his off-days throughout the summer.

This doesn’t even include putting on a headset and serving as crew chief for boss man Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his two Late Model Stock starts this season at North Wilkesboro and Florence.

So how does Berry finally start to wind down the year approaching the holidays?

You know better.

He has two more scheduled starts the next two weeks, naturally, coming in the JR Motorsports Late Model Stock in the Thanksgiving Classic and the Rackley WAR Super Late Model in the 55th Annual Snowball Derby.

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"Well, for one thing, you look at Larson or (Alex) Bowman and how much they've raced this year and it seems like a real positive for them," Berry said on Wednesday. "But really, racing the Late Model Stock is about my relationship with that team and what we've built there over the past few years and wanting to do that as much as I can.

"You know, we left Speedfest at Cordele with Rackley WAR really having enjoyed that experience together and wanting to do it again at the Derby. That deal actually came together pretty early in the year."

Then Earnhardt made the plunge back into Late Model Stocks and his schedule got busier and busier -- not that he's complaining.

"We actually weren't going to do the Classic, but when they put up $50,000 to win, how can you say no to that?"

Berry says he is confident in the program that earned Carson Kvapil the CARS Tour championship and saw him win the Old North State Nationals and Bobby Isaac Memorial this year, but he also concedes that he might be a little rusty practice gets rained out this weekend.

He says that even Cup Series crew chief Matt McCall, who is undefeated in this race in the three times he has entered over the past five years, would agree that it’s really challenging to jump back into Late Models once you’ve spent most of the year doing something else.

"For me, these cars require just a different mindset than the Xfinity car," Berry said. "It was actually beneficial for me to call that race for Dale because it put me back in the Late Model mindset to be where I need to be this weekend when we unload."

It helps that Berry hasn’t allowed himself to get too comfortable between jumping in and out of the Xfinity, Late Model Stock and Super Late Model cars. He flew down to Pensacola earlier in the month for an obligatory Snowball test day too.

"It went really well," Berry said. "They have really fast cars but Willie (Allen) really had to thrash to get that car ready when he got tore up early in the All American and then I had a really small window with all that we had going on.

"They’ve made some big gains with their Late Model program. It was the first time I really got to do just a test day with Willie. He’s really on it."

Berry made his Derby debut in 2019 with David ‘Buggy’ Pletcher and DLP Motorsports, then came the COVID year but he really missed not being down there last December when watching from home. He decided, all things equal, it was a race he didn’t want to miss again.

And having been through the gamut of practices and qualifying leading up to the main event, he feels especially prepared for the Super Bowl of Short Track Racing as well.

"A lot gets made of qualifying and the pressure associated with it," Berry said. "But really, I think I came away from that week believing that it just comes down to getting your car driving good."

But first, this weekend and the Thanksgiving Classic, where he is the defending winner.

"That track has a lot of tire conservation to it too, but it’s not like Florence, the Beach or Hickory because it’s really hard to pass," he said. "It’s 250 laps too so it’s the longest race of the year. You have four tires in the pits you can take but when do you take them, and do you take two and two or all four at once?

"You can’t lag back like you do at Florence because if you give up too much track position, it’s going to be really hard to get back through the field so there are a lot of strategic decisions that will go into this race."

So once Berry gets through these final two races, what does down time finally look like?

"We haven’t planned a whole lot, yet," Berry said. "I probably should have planned more but we go to races as a family. It’s what we do. But after the Derby, I’m hoping to go back home to Tennessee for Christmas and then just stay at home with our little girl."

Well, until Speedfest, the Icebreaker and then Speedweeks because the grind never stops.

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