Josh Berry put together a thrilling drive on Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, earning his second career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory and leading the first 1-2-3 finish for JR Motorsports in the Alsco Uniform 302 on the desert oval. Berry, subbing for the injured Michael Annett, led the final 17 laps of the playoff opener in his No. 1 Pilot Flying J #ThankATrucker Chevrolet, passing teammate Justin Allgaier for the lead and racing away from him and JRM’s Noah Gragson to earn his first victory on a 1.5-mile speedway. Earlier this season, Berry won in JRM’s No. 8 car at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. The win also locked the No. 1 team into the Round of 8 for the owner’s championship. It was the second win for Pilot Flying J with JRM and came with a special paint scheme dedicated to truck drivers everywhere as part of its Driver Appreciation celebration.
Stage One Finish: 9th
Starting 15th, Berry took the time to sort out the handling on his Pilot Flying J #ThankATrucker Camaro over the first 25 laps to the competition caution. When the caution waved, Berry told crew chief Mike Bumgarner that his car was really good in Turns 1 and 2, but loose in Turns 3 and 4 due to the sun being on the track at that end, and he felt the track would come to him once the sun went down. On the ensuing restart, Berry got squeezed by a couple of competitors, who triggered a multi-car crash in which Berry sustained slight damage to his right front fender. After a discussion on whether or not to come down pit road for an assessment, Bumgarner made the call to keep Berry on track as there would be less than 10 laps remaining in Stage One. The green flag waved at lap 41, four laps short of the end of the 45-lap stage, and Berry moved up to ninth at the green-and-white checkered flag, earning two valuable stage points for the team. Berry told Bumgarner that his car was much better in the latter part of the stage, and Bumgarner called him to pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment on the break, returning to the track in 13th position for Stage Two. Bumgarner also told his driver that the fender damage was minor from the first incident.
Stage Two Finish: 6th
When the second stage got under way, Berry immediately moved forward, gaining three positions in the first few laps to 11th. In just two laps, Berry had cracked the top 10 and ran eighth just before the caution waved again on lap 55 for a two-car crash in Turn 2. One of those cars was ahead of Berry at the time and he moved up a spot to seventh for the restart. Under the caution, Berry reported that his Pilot Flying J #ThankATrucker Chevrolet had swung a little to the tight side off the corners on the 1.5-mile speedway. Firing off from seventh position, Berry ran the remainder of Stage Two battling for position in the top 10, eventually finishing sixth and picking up five more bonus points in the process. Berry told Bumgarner that he had worn out his tires during the run, so Bumgarner went back on the previous adjustment and added four tires and fuel to the No. 1 Camaro on the break, sending the Tennessee native back out in eighth place for the final segment.
The final stage began with Berry continuing his fast start. Using the early circuits to move forward, Berry needed just seven laps to get to fifth place once the green flag replaced the yellow. Berry was still in fifth at lap 122 when the caution waved again for another two-car incident. Under the caution flag, Bumgarner called Berry down pit road for four more tires, fuel and an adjustment, sending him back out in seventh position. Back under green, Berry picked up where he had left off in the previous stint, marching from seventh to third in the span of five laps. Dicing in the pack, Berry stayed in the top five and ran as high as third until lap 140, when he took second position. Stalking Allgaier for the next 20 laps, Berry took the lead at lap 160 and held it for the next 21 laps until Bumgarner called him to pit road under green for four tires and fuel for the end of the race.
A quick pit stop helped Berry retain his track position, and he wasted little time hunting down Allgaier for the lead, passing his teammate off Turn 2 on lap 185. Over the remaining distance in the 201-lap event, Berry surged out to a 4.3-second lead by the time the checkered flag waved, locking up his first career victory on a 1.5-mile oval and sending the No. 1 Pilot Flying J #ThankATrucker Chevrolet team to the Round of 8 in the playoffs.
Behind Berry, who led a total of 38 laps on the day, Allgaier finished second with Gragson third ahead of Austin Cindric and Daniel Hemric. Brandon Jones led the second five, with AJ Allmendinger, Ty Dillon, Justin Haley and Harrison Burton filling out the top 10.
“This thing was so fast. It just took me a while to figure it out. I knew this race would go down to the bottom at the end, and I worked hard to make sure my car ran well on the bottom. I just had to stay disciplined and the guys made the right adjustments. It was fast, and I finally got a long run and put it together and was able to win it. This win moves the No. 1 team on to the Round of 8 in the owner’s playoffs, and that’s really important to Bummy (crew chief Mike Bumgarner) and this group. They have worked so hard and been through so much. They deserve this, Pilot Flying J deserves this, Allstate Peterbilt, TMC... I want to say hey to Michael at home and his group for trusting me to drive this race car. A 1-2-3 finish is really cool.” - Josh Berry