Josh Berry drove the No. 1 Pilot Flying J Spicy Chicken Sandwich Chevrolet from 21st at the start to eighth at the finish of Saturday’s Ambetter Get Vaccinated 200 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Berry was filling in for Michael Annett in the No. 1 as he recovers from surgery for a stress fracture in his leg. Berry’s finish was a solid one for the No. 1 team’s owner-points position, and Annett goes into the two-week Olympic break 12th in the NXS playoff standings, 32 points ahead of 13th-place Riley Herbst with seven races to go in the regular season. Annett is 11th in driver points following the event. Stage One Finish: 10th Berry started 21st for the 200-lap event after NASCAR applied its mathematical formula earlier in the week, and began to move forward as soon as the green flag waved to start the day. Over the first 10 laps, Berry advanced the Pilot Flying J Spicy Chicken Sandwich Chevrolet six positions to 15th and was 13th at lap 20 when the competition caution waved. Berry told crew chief Mike Bumgarner that his No. 1 Chevrolet was tight on entry and even tighter later in the long NHMS corners and his splitter was in contact with the track surface. Berry stayed on the track during the caution flag and lined up 13th for the restart at lap 26. Contact among the field coming to the green stacked up the field, but Berry was able to avoid any damage and emerged in 12th position. When the green waved again at lap 30, Berry was again able to advance, taking 11th on lap 32 and cracking the top 10 two circuits later. At lap 37, eight laps from the end of the 45-lap Stage One, Berry rose to ninth place and he would finish there, earning two valuable stage points. Under caution, Berry told Bumgarner that he was still tight on entry and in the center of the corner. On pit road, Bumgarner and the Pilot Flying J pit crew bolted on four fresh tires, added fuel and made two chassis adjustments to loosen Berry up for Stage Two. A pair of cars stayed out on the break, and Berry returned to the track in 14th position. Stage Two Finish: 7th On the restart, Berry employed the same strategy as in Stage One by making gains early. Five circuits following the green flag, Berry was back in the top 10 and took ninth place at lap 58. Three laps later, Berry got past JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson for eighth, and at lap 65 the Tennessee native swept into seventh position. Berry would maintain seventh for the remainder of Stage Two, adding four more stage points to his total for the day. In preparation for the pit stop at the stage break, Berry told Bumgarner that the tight condition had gotten better, but he still needed more help. On pit road, Bumgarner made another chassis adjustment and an air-pressure adjustment on the four fresh tires Berry received. The Pilot Flying J pit crew gained their driver one position on the exchange, and Berry began the final segment in sixth position. Final Stage: When the green flag waved to start the final 101-lap segment of the day, Berry lost one position in the race to Turn 1 to run seventh, but took sixth place back four laps later. He would stay on the cusp of the top five until lap 110, when he was overtaken by Harrison Burton and Justin Haley into Turn 3. Immediately afterward, Berry radioed to Bumgarner that he was on the splitter harder than he had been and that affected his ability to both get into and out of the corners. Settling into eighth position, Berry put his head down and clicked off laps near the pace of the leaders and eventually overhauled a fading Burton for seventh at lap 126. As the field strung out and lapped traffic became more prevalent, Berry lost seventh to Burton at lap 130. He stayed eighth, chasing AJ Allmendinger until lap 147 when Allmendinger snapped loose and Berry was able to get past. The caution flag waved for a single-car accident at lap 149, and Berry reported his car was still on the splitter a good bit. The caution allowed Berry to come down for his final set of sticker tires at lap 151, with fuel and an air-pressure adjustment, and he maintained seventh place for the run to the checkered flag. When the green flag waved for the final time with 45 laps remaining in the race, Berry was in a fight for position with Myatt Snider, and he fell to eighth position four laps later. He would maintain that position until the checkered flag. For Berry, it was his ninth top-10 result in 16 NXS starts this season. Christopher Bell won the race ahead of JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton. Haley was sixth, with Snider, Berry, Brett Moffitt and Herbst rounding out the top 10.
“Big thank-you to Michael (Annett), Pilot Flying J and JR Motorsports for letting me drive this Spicy Chicken Sandwich Chevrolet today. We were pretty tight, on the splitter most of the day as well, but Bummy (crew chief Mike Bumgarner) made a good call on the last stop to help loosen it up. This track reminds me of a big Martinsville, and we had a chance at a top-five finish at times today. Best of luck to Michael as he recovers.” - Josh Berry