LONG POND, Pa. — If Josh Berry watched the Truck Series race that was the meat in a tripleheader racing sandwich on a busy Saturday (July 22) at Pocono Raceway, he may have glimpsed a harbinger of his own fate.
That race saw Zane Smith win both of the first two stages and look for big chunks of the day like the driver to beat, only to see his chances for a victory dashed late when he was part of a multi-vehicle wreck.
As it turns out, after winning the first two stages of the Xfinity Series race, Berry’s twist of fate was much crueler. Unlike Smith, who has won twice in 2023, Berry was chasing his first checkered flag of the year. The trophy eluded his grasp even later, slipping away in overtime.
Oh, and it was contact with his JR Motorsports teammate, Sam Mayer, that led to his No. 8 Chevrolet sitting crumpled along the outside wall with a cut right-side tire as the race ended.
So you could excuse Berry for being bitter, and potentially even pointing fingers for his 24th-place finish. But after being checked and released from the infield care center, he absolved Mayer of any blame.
“It definitely wasn’t Sam’s fault,” Berry said. “It’s just hard racing there at the end where you can’t really see exactly. When we got jammed up there, he just had such a huge run that I had to try to get back next to the 21 [of eventual race winner Austin Hill], and really if anything it was my fault.”
Berry also said he was unaware that there was debris on the frontstretch during overtime, meaning a yellow flag could have flown early and added some extra urgency to the mad dash to the finish.
On the list of things he could control was having to duke it out with Hill in the first place. After acing restarts all day, Berry wasn’t able to escape the pack in overtime.
But he liked what he and Hill, who was behind him, did together.
“I thought our restart was fine,” Berry said. “He gave me a really good shove, and we cleared the bottom lane. … He was just on my bumper as we turned in, I felt like, and it was just enough to get me a little bit loose. It was good execution by him there.”
And while it’s clear Berry was not to get a top five like he thought his team deserved the fact that he was in position to suffer heartbreak was its own ironic silver lining after three straight races (with results of 24th, 19th, and 17th) where he definitely wasn’t.
“Tough way to end, for sure, but we had a really fast car, which is what we’ve been lacking all year,” he said. “So if we keep bringing cars like this to racetracks, we’ll win plenty of times.”
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