NASCAR Cup Series
Alex Bowman Expected to Miss 3-4 Weeks With Injury; Josh Berry to Fill In
Apr 26, 2023
At the beginning of the season, Josh Berry had no concrete plans to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Yet, as Dover Motor Speedway hosts the 11th points-paying event of the 2023 season, the full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver is poised to make his sixth start on the year, sinking into his second interim role in the first three months of the season.
This weekend, Berry takes the wheel of the No. 48 Ally Financial Chevrolet Camaro for the first time, after Alex Bowman sustained a fractured vertebra competing in his sprint car at 34 Raceway on Tuesday, which Hendrick Motorsports says will likely sideline him for three to four weeks.
“Obviously, I hate the circumstances once again," Berry said on Saturday. "Alex has been a friend to me. Like I said, it’s a difficult situation to step in again. I hate that for Alex. He’s been a friend to me over the last couple of years. You never want to see anyone injured like that."
Bowman is the second driver from Hendrick Motorsports to be sidelined with an injury this year, after Chase Elliott fractured his tibia while snowboarding prior to Las Vegas in March, leaving Berry to serve as the interim driver of the No. 9.
Elliott returned to the NASCAR Cup Series two weeks ago at Martinsville, marking the end of a five-race run for Berry with Hendrick Motorsports. In that time, the Tennessee-native scored a runner-up finish at Richmond Raceway.
"The reality of it is I feel a little bit more comfortable than where we were sitting in at Las Vegas; having a relationship with everyone at HMS and working through a handful of races with the No. 9," Berry continued. "I’m ready to go today. We have a great opportunity in the Xfinity race today I feel like with the No. 8 car being the defending winners. We’re going to stay in the present; race these two races this weekend and see how it goes.”
Irregardless of the experience for Berry in the NASCAR Cup Series, the 32-year-old driver has quite a few additional facts playing to his benefit, especially when it comes to competing in Sunday's 400-mile race from the one-mile concrete oval.
Berry has prior experience in the NASCAR Cup Series at Dover, after driving the No. 77 Chevrolet Camaro for Spire Motorsports in 2021, where he finished 30th. However, in his two Xfinity Series starts at the one-mile oval, the JR Motorsports driver has finished no worse than second.
That, coupled with his additional time in the Cup Series this season with Hendrick Motorsports, should put him in a better position to succeed in his limited starts with the No. 48, a notion which crew chief Blake Harris agrees with.
"The company has a great history of success here in the No. 48 alone," said Harris. "Josh [Berry], we got him in the simulator Wednesday as soon as we knew something – I mean within two hours, I think, of him knowing he was able to hop in for us.
"Statistically, he’s probably the best guy here. He’s only had a handful of races, but I don’t know that he’s finished worse than second here. Certainly the easiest fit to plug in. He’s got a handful of Cup races and we’re going to take the approach this week to let him get comfortable and get up to speed. Fortunately we’re going to get practice and qualifying in today, so less nervous from the standpoint of having to throw him straight in the race.
Despite the ongoing chatter of Berry graduating to the NASCAR Cup Series on a full-time basis in 2024, the five-time Xfinity Series winner isn't necessarily keen on setting expectations and goals for his limited time at NASCAR's top-level.
“I think it’s hard to have too high of expectations when you step in this, right. Cup racing is hard. These guys are great; they’re the best of the best in the world racing here at these tracks," said Berry. "I don’t think it’s really fair for me to come in and have really high expectations. I think my expectations are of myself, which is to give the best effort I can each and every week to be prepared to drive the race car and do the best job I can in the race car to limit my mistakes and be there at the end of the race."
With the results that Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports and brand-new crew chief Blake Harris have put together in the early portions of the season, Berry is likely in solid hands, as far as having a strong car underneath him as he gathers more experience at NASCAR's top-level.
Photo Credit: James Gilbert, Getty Images, Courtesy of NASCAR Media