NASCAR Cup Series
Why This Isn't Exactly Retirement for Kurt Busch
Oct 15, 2022
A year ago, Josh Berry won in the Xfinity Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to cement himself as a division regular but his victory on Saturday will give him a 25 percent chance to win the championship in three weeks at Phoenix Raceway.
This is truly a story about percentages and the odds.
Before the season started, Berry was given a +700 odds to win the championship, which isn’t that bad given his relative NASCAR inexperience and considering he ranked sixth alongside veteran JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier.
At the same time Berry was told after the race by Dale Tanhardt of Garage Guys Fantasy that Caesars Sportsbook had him at 22:1 odds to win on Saturday compared to his other teammate, Noah Gragson, a wild ranking considering he won this race last fall with the exact same car and engineering team.
Berry was legit surprised to hear that.
"Yeah," Berry said emphatically. "They put a little disrespect on me. I'll be honest. We've struggled the past few months, but I've said all year we can win any week and hopefully someone made a lot of money on us today."
Honestly, beating the odds is what Berry continues to do.
A local Legends Car racer at the Nashville Fairgrounds isn’t supposed to make it to Late Models, much less NASCAR. But what are the chances an everyman bank teller from Central Tennessee would strike up an iRacing friendship with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for that matter?
What are the chances that same local racer turned Late Model driver would become one of the most successful short trackers of the past decade? How about the odds that he would then become a NASCAR Xfinity Series full-timer -- and one with a chance to win the championship?
"It's really hard to put into words," Berry said. "It's really about the people that have been put around me. Obviously, everyone at JR Motorsports with Dale, Kelley and LW Miller, they've been huge supporters of mine. Mr. H and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for what they do for our company too."
But arriving at this point was a matter of odds and a little bit of luck, too.
"At the end of the day," Berry explained, "I got this opportunity in the Xfinity Series, part-time last year, full-time this year, statistically in the best seasons JR Motorsports has ever had, right? Our cars are the fastest. Noah, Justin, Sam and I can go out there and win every week so it's just good timing to be here now."
What are the chances?!
So naturally, Berry has to feel pretty good throwing the dice in Las Vegas because the winning move was essentially a huge gamble with 34 laps to go. He got a run on the outside of AJ Allmendinger but got shoved into the wall when making the move.
It wasn’t minimal contact either.
"I was a little bit tight off (Turn) 4 the whole time, and [Allmendinger] left me a lane but nothing extra, but I wasn’t letting off," Berry said. "That was for a trip to Phoenix and I was willing to hit the wall or whatever. We’ve had a tough couple weeks or months, but we knew we could do this if we were at our best."
It was a risky move, but in a year that everything has come up ‘7 7 7’ why not go for it?
So here we are again, Berry three weeks away from a championship opportunity in Year One of a NASCAR career that didn’t even look feasible three years ago. Berry was largely content to be a short track ace and de facto general manager of the JR Motorsports driver development program.
But when signing up to chase a championship this year, Berry liked his odds to at least accomplish their goal of making it to Phoenix as one of the final four if he could just make it to the Round of 8, featuring the two tracks he won at in 2021.
"We knew Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville would be three great chances for us," Berry said. "And I don't think we had a perfect day, but we executed when it mattered."
So now an entire lifetime of defying the odds comes down to that race in the desert and the journey isn’t lost on Berry either.
"I've just been so fortunate to be with JR Motorsports and driving fast race cars, building my own race cars and racing myself and just having the time of my life," Berry said. "I never thought I would be at this level and have this opportunity.
"But I quickly learned that under the right circumstances, I could compete. I feel like I have a lot to learn and improve on but days like this certainly help."
They certainly helped his odds of winning the championship. Racing America aren’t the experts like Garage Guys Fantasy, but Berry has at least a 25 percent chance to take it all.
Would you take that bet?