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Josh Berry Equally Disappointed, Thankful for 12th Place Run at Bristol

Stewart-Haas Racing's Rookie of the Year contender put in an excellent effort this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway as he qualified second, and rebounded from a mid-race spin to finish 12th.


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"I think I had three flat tires and I was on fire."

Josh Berry

It was a wild day, but it was a momentum-building day for NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year contender Josh Berry and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team in Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The native of Hendersonville, TN, who started the race from the second position, would lead the race on two occasions for a total of 25 laps and Berry spent nearly the entire race inside the top 10 before ultimately settling for a 12th-place finish.

"We had a really good car," Berry said after his 12th-place finish. "I thought we raced really well up front. When we had that one set that corded, and we spun, we lost track position and we could never really break back into the top five."

Indeed, he didn't get back inside the top five, and ultimately, the 33-year-old driver was disappointed in coming home outside of the top 10. However, even with the disappointment of finishing outside of the top 10, the driver of the Sunny D Ford Mustang Dark Horse had a lot to be thankful for.

For one, Berry was happy the race wasn't the Food City 501.

"I think I had three flat tires and was on fire [at the finish]. We made it 73 laps, but I don't think it would have made it 74," Berry explained after the race.

In addition to surviving the issues that he encountered on the final lap of the race, Berry made it through a couple of close calls in the race on his path to his best finish of the season.

On Lap 32, Berry was in a three-wide battle with Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace for the race lead. Reddick, who was on older tires, lost control in the middle of the three-wide battle and made contact with the right side of Berry's car. Fortunately, Berry was able to hang on and didn't suffer too much damage.

Berry found himself in another pucker moment as the race was in the final Stage. On Lap 310, Berry lost control of his car coming off of Turn 2 and spun the No. 4 machine. Miraculously, nobody collided with him, and he was able to skillfully keep the car from contacting the outside wall.

Add in the constant tire-cording issues that everyone dealt with throughout the day, and it's apparent that Berry went through a lot in Sunday's race. The reward at the end of it all was the best day of his 2024 season, so far, and it was probably his most complete race weekend as a NASCAR Cup Series driver overall.

Heading into this weekend's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Josh Berry and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team were looking for answers. In his weekly media availability, Berry admitted that the NASCAR Cup Series presented challenges to the level that he didn't expect through the opening four races of the season.

“It’s been a little bit disappointing," Berry said of his season on Saturday. "Even when I started this going back to last summer people asked me all the time what my expectations were and I always said that I expected it to be hard and it is hard. Cup racing is hard."

In that availability, Berry also said that he felt that he and the No. 4 team would be fine once they stopped making costly rookie mistakes. On Sunday, at Bristol Berry and the No. 4 team did just that.

Following that chat with the media, Berry dazzled in NASCAR Cup Series qualifying and came up just 0.031 sec. shy of his first career NASCAR Cup Series pole. While it wasn't a pole, the second-place starting spot was the best qualifying position of Berry's 17-race NASCAR Cup Series career. And it marked the first top-10 start Berry has ever recorded in Cup Series competition.

As it would turn out, the second-place qualifying run was only the beginning for Berry.

Bristol marks the first truly impressive showing of the 2024 season for Berry. Throughout the entire weekend, the driver flashed the skills that led Rodney Childers and Stewart-Haas Racing to pick him as the successor of the legendary Kevin Harvick.

It was an impactful weekend overall for Berry, and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team, and when we look back at things at the end of the season, the Food City 500 could very well be the fork in the road that propelled Berry to a Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award.

But there's still a long way to go, and a lot of work to be done before Berry can even begin thinking about taking home ROTY honors.

Berry will head into next weekend's race at Circuit of the Americas second in the rookie standings, and he trails Spire Motorsports' Carson Hocevar by just five points. Heading into the day, Berry was 22 points behind.

Photo Credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America

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