Race Weekend Central

Josh Berry Ends Up 12th After Roller Coaster Day at Bristol

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Few races in NASCAR history have been more wild than Sunday’s (March 17) Food City 500, and no one’s day symbolized the chaos of the event more than that of Josh Berry

It was a day that ended in 12th, but only just. 

“I think I had three flat tires and I was on fire,” Berry told Frontstretch. 

“We made it 73 laps. I don’t think it would have made it 74.” 

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The Cup Series rookie entered the day full of hope, having qualified a career-best second. He took the lead from polesitter Ryan Blaney on lap 3 and proceeded to lead the next 18 laps, topping his previous career total (14) in the Cup Series. 

That’s where the peak of Berry’s day ended. Over the rest of the chaotic opening stage, the Tennessean led again for seven laps, fell to the back of the top 20 and proceeded to drive back into 10th to salvage a stage point. 

Berry faded into the pack in the second stage. In the final 250-lap stage, the Stewart-Haas Racing newcomer lost a right-rear tire and brought out a caution with a spin. He rallied back into the top 20, but corded a right-front tire after pushing too hard to gain ground and had to pit under green. 

“We started making changes to the car to try to compensate for (the lost track position),” Berry said. “I don’t know exactly what all we did. But I think we made it cord the tires faster. On top of that, being in dirty air, it just is what it is, really. We were just cording the tires there.” 

Luckily for Berry, no caution flag flew to trap him multiple laps down. The green-flag pit sequence played out and Berry briefly emerged third with what amounted to an accidental short-pitting strategy. He was quickly passed by Brad Keselowski but held fourth for the majority of the last run. 

It wasn’t until the final laps that Berry’s tires finally gave out, dropping him to a lap-down finish in 12th as the checkered flag flew. 

That wasn’t the result Berry wanted entering the day, but it was one crew chief Rodney Childers was willing to take given the chaos of the race. 

“Josh did a good job all weekend,” Childers said. “We just had one run that we got too loose. We lost that right-rear and that got us back in traffic. We were trying to push hard to get back up there and ended up losing the right-front that next run. Had to pit under green. 

“It came close to working out. We were fourth forever and just ran out of tire in the end.” 

Both Berry and Childers come from the short track ranks. In theory, that would have made a race like Sunday’s the perfect race for the pair. But the unique elements of Sunday’s tire trouble made for a challenging day. 

Early on the race felt short-track-esque for Berry. But the 33-year-old said it began to feel different as the race went on. 

“Towards the end, everybody kind of realized the tires just went to a point, corded, then that was it,” Berry said. “That’s the threshold that’s different than a bias-ply tire that, obviously loses grip, but it’s not on fabric and going flat.” 

Childers shared similar sentiments. 

“We used to race at some places like Myrtle Beach (Speedway) and Florence (Speedway),” Childers said. “You really have to take care of (tires) there. You only run about 40% throttle down the straightaways trying to save your tires. 

“It came close to that. But here with it being concrete, it’s harder when they do wear out. The way these just go down to the cords and fabric, it turns back in a hurry.” 

Berry experienced the highs and lows of NASCAR racing throughout Sunday’s 500 laps. In its own unique way, Bristol provided a fun challenge to the Cup field — Berry included. 

But as he turns the page and focuses on Circuit of the Americas, Berry admits another day like Sunday probably wouldn’t be best for the sport. 

“It was probably entertaining,” Berry said. “And I’m not going to lie, it was kind of fun. But obviously this is not what we need going forward.” 

About the author

A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.

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