Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: Is Josh Berry the Next Short-Track Ace?

1. Is Josh Berry Primed for a Short Track Win?

If you were around the Atlanta sports scene in the 1990s, you know all about Deion Sanders and his Prime Time persona.

No, this is not a space to advocate for Coach Prime to own a race team. That said, this week may as well be in the midst of Prime Time for Josh Berry and Stewart-Hass Racing.

It’s well-known that Berry and his crew chief Rodney Childers love short track racing. It’s where both came up as racers and it’s special to them. But feeling passionate is easy. It’s the actual doing of something that’s hard.

Berry is proving he can do the hard things on short tracks. The second short-track race of the season on Sunday (March 31) night gave a similar result – with Berry near the front. Despite starting 30th, Berry made it to the top 10 in the first stage and to second in the next stage a combo of things falling the wrong way and contact with Daniel Suarez put the No. 4 in 12th by the race’s end.

Berry, who also qualified second earlier this year at Bristol Motor Speedway, silenced doubters this past weekend that Bristol was no fluke. For as many shortcomings as SHR has had in the past year, last year’s race at Martinsville Speedway saw Ryan Preece and Chase Briscoe combine to lead 244 laps.

Stewart-Haas already had reason to circle Martinsville when the season began. If Berry and Childers are hitting on something when it comes to short tracks, then SHR could be primed to spoil what will be a celebration of Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at Martinsville.

See also
Stat Sheet: Overtime Has Not Been Kind to Martin Truex Jr.

2. What’s Next for Bubba Pollard?

Wander around any short-track racing series, and you will hear stories of ‘we knew them then.’

That’s especially true when it comes to Legends cars, a form of racing that has spawned those such as Chris Buescher and Joey Logano. But for every Buescher or Logano, there are those drivers with their advocates who firmly believe that if they had gotten the right chance at the right time, perhaps they’d be successfully racing at NASCAR’s top level.

That’s why the story of Bubba Pollard was such a feel-good one.

Similar to Berry, JR Motorsports found a a way to give a short-track driver who had ground their way to the top of those series a chance in a national division within NASCAR, and in very good equipment. Sure, a driver could run an average of 25th to say they raced in a NASCAR event. Or they can race at a place that is like home to them where they know they can have a chance to win each time out.

Pollard showed on Saturday at Richmond Raceway that when you give a talented driver good racecars, they can do well. Heck, if a late yellow fell, maybe he had a chance to win? Who knows?

Pollard removed doubts about how well he would do when given an opportunity. Obviously, the easy assumption for Pollard would be for a possible chance to run at Iowa Speedway this summer. But if JR Motorsports is unable to make something work, it’d be a shock to see another top Xfinity Series team not try to pull something together.

3. Should Joey Gase’s Souvenir Throw Draw a Penalty?

OK, some of you may have thought it was funny when Josh Williams walked across the track after parking his car last March at Atlanta Motor Speedway. NASCAR showed no sense of humor and suspended him for a race.

Joey Gase made the sport enter the national conversation unexpectedly this past Saturday at Richmond when he opted to send Dawson Cram home “with a souvenir,” ripping the rest of the rear bumper off of his racecar and throwing it at Cram.

It did not take long for the incident to gain mentions from outlets that usually would not cover NASCAR and that’s a problem.

Was it amusing? Yes. But you cannot have large pieces from a wrecked car being thrown at passing cars, especially with safety crews nearby.

It does not matter how funny it may have seemed. Neither does the fact that the incident involved a team with a smaller budget. Gase does not necessarily need to be suspended, but he should not come away from Richmond without either a points penalty or a monetary fine.

See also
Xfinity Breakdown: Chandler Smith Stays Hot at Richmond, Joey Gase Loses His Cool

4. Is the Human Element Being Pushed Out of Race Control by Fans?

Make all the jokes you want about AI taking over, but Sunday night was a reason why racing needs the human element at its higher level.

Did NASCAR blow the restart call and possibly help Denny Hamlin win? You can cruise social media for opinions on both sides of that debate, one that’s fueled by the victor from Richmond being one that’s a lightning rod for attention in the sport.

Not to compare NASCAR to other sports, but sometimes you have balls and strike calls. It’s called the human element. Did it cost Martin Truex Jr., a win? Maybe – but what if he cleared Joey Logano and had a chance to rally back? Or what if Truex’s pit crew is the first one off pit road and he got a different front-row starting spot?

NASCAR officials are human. Sometimes they get things right and sometimes they don’t.

That’s a variable of the sport that still needs to be embraced.

5. Is Logano About to Turn Things Around?

It took seven races, but Logano finally grabbed his first top five of the season at Richmond. His finish of second was his best result since last summer at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It could be just what everyone from the No. 22 team needs, to be honest.

Why?

Because Logano now heads to Martinsville, a track where he has finished no worse than 10th in the last 10 races and second in two of his last four outings at the paperclip-shaped track.

If Logano is about to get back to his usual form that followers of the sport are used to seeing, the current back-to-back run of short tracks could be a big reason why.

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Echo

Come on, you know how easy and fast it is with the technology looking right down that line. That wasn’t a human error judgement call and you know it.

Joshua

Screw AI. Keep the human element to it. In fact, dissolve the restart zone and let the flag-man start the race.

Ted

Maybe they should actually have the restart zone be at the start/finish line. 🤔🤷🏼‍♂️

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