Race 19 of 33: U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway
Track Specs: .875-mile oval / 250 laps
Weather: Clear; 70 degrees
Race Winner: Erik Jones
Berry’s finish: 9th
In his fourth career NASCAR XFINITY Series start and first since September of last year, Josh Berry picked up where he left off with a top-10 effort at Iowa Speedway Saturday night.
Behind the wheel of the No. 88 Sun Energy 1 Chevrolet, Berry finished ninth in the U.S. Cellular 250. It was his second consecutive top-10 after a seventh-place finish at Richmond International Raceway last year. On this night, Berry never fell out of the top 10 despite frenzied racing in the 250-lap event. He started sixth – one off his career-best – and climbed as high as fifth with a quick pit stop with just under 100 laps to go.
On the ensuring restart Berry received hard contact from Daniel Suarez, who inadvertently drove into the back of Berry’s car when it didn’t get up to speed. The contact damaged the radiator on Suarez’s car and bent the rear spoiler on Berry’s, hence altering the handle of the No. 88. Until that point Berry’s crew had methodically chipped away at a pesky tight condition that had hampered the Hendersonville, Tennessee native through the first half of the race, and the Sun Energy 1 car was handling its best prior to that setback.
The incident knocked the No. 88 back to seventh but not out of contention. In fact, Berry maintained seventh for the next 30 laps. Fuel conservation forced him to relinquished spots to Dakoda Armstrong and Brad Keselowski in the final circuits, but nonetheless, his return to the site of his Xfinity Series debut in 2014 saw him leave three spots better with a ninth-place effort.
Berry has now finished 12th or better in three of his four career Xfinity Series races.
Erik Jones dominated the race, leading 153 of 250 laps en route to his third win of the year. He lost his lead on the final round of pit stops but passed Ty Dillon with 20 laps to go for the victory. Dillon held on to second, with JR Motorsports’ Elliott Sadler finishing third. Brennan Poole, Armstrong, Sam Hornish and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top seven finishers.
Berry will return to the seat of the No. 88 on Sept. 24 at Kentucky Speedway. Next week Kenny Habul will drive the No. 88 Sun Energy 1 Chevrolet at Watkins Glen International for JR Motorsports, becoming the seventh driver to get behind the wheel of the No. 88 this season (Chase Elliott 5, Alex Bowman 5, Kevin Harvick 4, Cole Custer 2, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2, Josh Berry 1).
Josh Berry, driver No. 88 Sun Energy 1 Chevrolet
“First and foremost I’m so grateful for the opportunity to drive this car. I know I can compete at this level, and Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. continues to believe in me. I have to thank him and Kelley (Earnhardt Miller) for the opportunity. I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to get a better finish. We had a really good car, and I just missed a shift on that restart. I know we were better than ninth place, but between that and having to save fuel, it’s where we ended up. Dave Elenz did a fantastic job calling the race. He was able to coach me on hitting my box on pit road, which was probably my biggest hurdle last year at Richmond. Those went way more smoothly tonight, and the crew was able to gain spots on pit road almost every stop. I really appreciate this team for all the hard work they put into this weekend.