Josh Berry goes from Xfinity Underdog to Top Dog in Vegas

auto october 15 nascar xfinity series playoffs alsco uniforms 302

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  • Josh Berry entered Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity race below the playoff threshold.
  • With his win, Berry is locked into the Xfinity Playoff Final 4.
  • The win is Chevy’s 500th all-time victory in the series.

    Josh Berry’s resume would indicate he’s a top short-track racer, but the JR Motorsports driver may need to broaden that profile. Berry’s No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet led 65 laps en route to victory in the Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday — its second victory in the last three races over the high-inclined 1.5 mile.

    Berry took the lead from AJ Allmendinger with 34 laps to go – the pair battled side by side at the front of the pack on a late race restart. Berry was even pushed into the outside wall before recovering and taking the lead for his fifth career win.

    Las Vegas native Noah Gragson – who led a race with 87 fastest laps and took his 14th season-leading stage victory – finished second, 1.125 seconds behind Berry. Justin Allgaier finished third, cementing a 1-2-3 podium sweeping effort from JR Motorsports.

    The win is hugely important, earning Berry automatic Championship 4 position at the season finale at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 5 – his first opportunity to race for the season title.

    “I think I hit the wall about 12 times,” Berry told his team over the radio during the recovery lap.

    When the 31-year-old Tennessee native finally got out of his Chevy at the finish line, he took the time to remove his helmet – standing next to his Chevy and soaking up the importance of the day and championship implications – a far cry from his job as a bank teller years ago.

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    “I was a little cramped in (Turn) 4 all the time, and [Allmendinger] left me a lane, but nothing more, but I wasn’t letting go,” said Berry, who hadn’t led a lap in the past six races. “It was for a trip to Phoenix and I was ready to hit the wall or whatever. We had a tough few weeks or months, but we knew we could do it if we were at our best.

    “Had a warning with 30 to go and was able to fight off these guys’ heads and build enough of a [points] gap to keep it,” Berry said. “I’m telling you, I’m just speechless.”

    Berry’s NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway also capped off a memorable afternoon for Chevrolet. It was Chevrolet’s 500th all-time win in the series and Chevrolet’s sixth consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series Manufacturers’ Championship.

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    Allmendinger – the regular season champion had to stop in green flag conditions shortly after running Berry into the lead – a pair of loose tires finally derailed his day. Allmendinger’s 22nd place finish in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet was the lowest among the eight current Playoff drivers.

    Joe Gibbs Racing driver Ty Gibbs and former DAYTONA 500 winner Trevor Bayne rounded out the top five on Saturday. Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill, JRM’s Sam Mayer, Kaulig Racing’s Daniel Hemric, JGR’s Brandon Jones and Our Motorsports’ Anthony Alfredo complete the top 10.

    Allmendinger was the only playoff driver to finish outside the top 10.

    auto october 15 nascar xfinity series playoffs alsco uniforms 302

    Josh Berry (#8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Harrisons USA) takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Alsco Uniforms 302 Saturday October 15, 2022 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada

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    With Berry’s victory and his automatic place in Championship 4, Gragson now leads the standings with 19 points over Gibbs and 29 points over Allgaier.

    Hill (-15), Allmendinger (-16), Jones (-29) and Mayer (-36) head into the next round needing to make up points with two races remaining – at Homestead-Miami and Martinsville, Va. – to set the four-car championship lineup for Phoenix.

    NASCAR Camping World Truck Series star Hailie Deegan made her NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in Las Vegas, earning a very respectable 13th in her first race.

    “I’m pretty excited right now, the guys have given me an amazing car,” Deegan said, noting that she would love the opportunity to race more in the Xfinity Series should a sponsor apply for funding.

    The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to the playoffs at next week’s NASCAR Three-Head Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Saturday’s Contender Boats 300 (4:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Myatt Snider is the defending winner of the race.