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Josh Berry aims to keep emotions in check, focus on winning

Defending series champion Austin Cindric takes the checkered flag at Phoenix Raceway for his second NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season.

Josh Berry wants to be remembered for winning races, not middle-finger salutes.

But after giving one to Santino Ferrucci after crashing out of last Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Phoenix, the reigning NASCAR Weekly Series national champion became an unwitting social media star.

“Yeah, there’s regrets,” Berry said this week during a media teleconference ahead. “I know that’s not something I should do. I just let emotions get the best of me. ... I would not do it again.

“Some people liked it, some people didn’t, but ultimately for me and where I’m at, it’s probably best that I don’t do things like that.”

Berry will run both the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He’ll drive for Young’s Motorsports in the Truck race, subbing for Kris Wright after Wright tested positive for COVID-19.

Then, Berry will continue his scheduled 12-race Xfinity run with JR Motorsports, where he’s raced in Late Models for over a decade.

Prior to this season, he made select Xfinity starts (mostly for JR Motorsports) from 2014-17. But a lack of funding prevented him from more.

Now, he has the biggest shot of his career - one that could possibly lead him to a full-time NASCAR ride. That means a need to get results.

Berry looked poised for a solid one in Phoenix. He had risen into the top three during the final stage.

But during the caution at Lap 133, he was caught speeding on pit road. He then made a return trip there for a loose wheel.

Off the restart, Berry quickly moved back into the top 15. But on Lap 148, contact with Ferrucci helped send Berry into the Turn 2 wall. Going down the backstretch, Berry suffered a left rear tire failure and spun into the Turn 3 wall.

Berry’s day was done. But not before climbing out of his car and telling Ferrucci, in a way, that he was “number one.” Doubly so.

However, Berry wasn’t so frustrated with the wreck itself as he was with the missed opportunity.

“We had a great car,” he said. “I can’t stress that enough, how good we were. For this group to take a guy straight out of a late model car at Hickory (N.C.), take him to Phoenix which I’ve never seen, run in the top three, have one of the best cars and stand a chance to win the race is incredible.

“That’s where (the frustration) came. The reaction from all that has been mixed, but I know that’s not something I can do. I had my talk with Wayne (Auton, Xfinity Series director) and the guys at NASCAR, and it was straightforward. ... As soon as we shut the hauler from Phoenix, we were ready to go to Atlanta.”

Atlanta will be Berry’s fifth start this season in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. So far, it’s been hit or miss - two top-10 finishes, two crashes - with a lot of on-the-job training.

There’s more than just a new car and new tracks. It’s the art of restarts: Picking the right lane and making the right moves once the green flag drops.

Then there’s the little things on pit road: Running the right speed, getting in and out of the stall, and putting the car where it needs to be for his over-the-wall crew.

Berry doesn’t have a full season to learn all of that. He only has a dozen races, and he’s already through four of them.

“In a way, I feel like I’m kind of thrown into it,” he admitted.

But he’s trying not to put extra pressure on himself than there already is from his team, his sponsors, and, perhaps most of all, the short track community he comes from.

He acknowledges “carrying the weight” of those racers in particular. He said he plans to race with them again next weekend in his late model.

And he’s optimistic that he can bring them a trophy from NASCAR’s Xfinity Series before long.

Berry mentioned Martinsville Speedway, where he won in his Late Model in 2019, as a “great shot for us,” but he doesn’t want his team to think it’s their only shot. In his mind, they can win on Saturday, too.

“I believe in this (JR Motorsports) group and they believe in me,” Berry said. “It’s really been a pleasure to work with them and get better each week.

“I think our best days are ahead of us.”