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Josh Berry: New “Hot Boot” of the NASCAR Xfinity Series

Josh Berry was “definitely outside” of his “comfort zone.”

It was early May and the JR Motorsports driver had just won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race of 2022, at the April 30 race at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway.

The day after the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team’s marketing and design group had an idea.

Why not have some fun ahead of NASCAR Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway? They proposed a photo shoot dedicated to Berry’s sponsor Harrison, which paid homage to an old Dale Earnhardt Sr. ad.

Beginning in 1986, it showed Earnhardt reclining next to his second NASCAR Winston Cup championship trophy, feet propped up directly in front of the camera.

The ad text simply says “Hot Foot”.

In 2022, as Berry reclined next to his Dover trophy and propped up his Harrison boots, it was “Hot Boot.”

The idea of ​​being compared to Earnhardt in any way made Berry, 31, a little “worried” at first, but he was “still willing to do it.”

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A recent ad from JR Motorsports and Harrison’s alongside his inspiration from Dale Earnhardt

“I think back to the late model car and the Xfinity car when I did the throwback races. I always think, ‘I’m not going down Dale Earnhardt’s #3 route,'” Berry told SPEED SPORT. “I felt out of place there. … I feel quite humble and respect the legends of the sport. If Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants to pose like that, that’s one thing, but when I’m supposed to do that, I was like, ‘Man, what are they going to say?’”

When he saw the end product, the Tennessee native was pleased. It helped that JR Motorsports didn’t just do the tribute like that.

“This sport is results-oriented, right,” Berry said. “It was a win and that makes it a little bit easier to do things like that too.”

One could argue that the ad served as a proclamation: Josh Berry had arrived.

Sure, Berry won twice in 2021. The first win came at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, a track where he had much success at the late model level.

Months later, he grabbed another in the playoffs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This was in a backup role, however, as Berry piloted the No. 1 car, which was normally driven by Michael Annett, who was injured at the time.

“Obviously, that’s probably what made Martinsville special because it was really just super personal and it really changed my life,” Berry said. “Everyone after that has kind of cemented my place again. I feel like it’s in the Xfinity series, especially this year.”

In a No. 8 team built solely around him, Berry added two more wins. A month after Dover, Berry put on a show at Charlotte Motor Speedway, battling teammate Justin Allgaier and leading a race-high for 89 laps, winning by 18 seconds over Ty Gibbs.

Hot boot, indeed.

“This year, Dover and Charlotte were both very special to me for a number of reasons,” Berry said. “Obviously we’re locking ourselves into the playoffs and I’m really thinking now, probably after Charlotte, establishing ourselves as someone who’s going to be in a great position when the playoffs start and really establishing myself as a playoff and championship contender, like.” I feel.”

Of the circuits he has raced at with JR Motorsports, his success at Dover has surprised him the most.

It wasn’t a track he expected to match his driving talent.

“I was really super nervous going to Dover last year because I’ve been watching races there since I was a kid and the place looks super tough,” said Berry. “You saw how certain people dominate there, right? The Jimmie Johnsons, the Kevin Harvicks, these guys dominate and even Justin (Allgaier) in the Xfinity series is super good there. So you know it’s one of those tracks that suits a certain rider or mindset. I’m not really sure I know why it suits me. . … really took it in. Sometimes you can’t really explain it.”

One track style that Berry is still getting his hands on is road racing.

He has made two road course starts with JRM, last year at Mid-Ohio where he finished eighth and this year at the Circuit of The Americas where he finished a dismal 27th place.

“It’s been a big part of my preparation, not just this week but since last November, preparing for this style of racing,” said Berry. “We have several of these races ahead of us. So we kind of use it as an opportunity to just build a notebook and learn with the ultimate goal of getting to the Charlotte Roval in the playoffs and playing at a higher level where we can hold our own in that playoff round. ”

Berry’s next chance to improve on a street circuit is this weekend.

The NASAR Xfinity Series makes its first trip to Portland Int’l Raceway, a 1.967-mile street course.

Some street course aces, like AJ Allmendinger, have shown a knack for short distances in NASCAR.

Does Berry think crossover can go both ways?

“I have a feeling they’re definitely translating,” Berry said. “It’s a different kind of race. But I think a lot of the core principles seem to translate. And at the end of the day, a lot of those tracks, especially like a place like Portland, are a bunch of short tracks kind of put together. … I think what I lack most is just experience and probably confidence and just knowing that I can get the best out of the car and make it to the end of the race.”

How does four-time NASCAR winner Berry feel as he begins his 44th Xfinity Series career, but his 14th full-time?

Is he now a bona fide “NASCAR driver” or does he still see himself as a late model driver?

“That’s a tough question to answer, but I think I’ll answer it as best I can,” Berry said. “I feel like there are different types of people in this sport. And they all have their place, right? Look at some guys who are drivers and others are just racers and I feel like I just fall into that racer category. I’ve raced a lot of different things, achieved a lot of things, been super handy and evolved in my races over the years and just loved racing and building race cars and working on race cars. And so… I’ve never really considered myself a driver because I feel like I’m more than that. I feel like I can bring more to the table than just buckle up in the car. …

“I don’t really feel like I necessarily feel like I’m an Xfinity Series driver, I don’t feel like I’m any different.”

Listen to the full interview with Josh Berry below.

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