Josh Berry’s success in NASCAR is a bigger story than you may realize at first glance. And to understand it, you also have to realize how he ended up substituting for an injured Chase Elliott to begin with. You see, the pathways to get to the biggest stock car stage of them all has changed over the years, and many in the sport seem to fail to realize that with those changes, the connections made from fans to their favorite drivers have changed as well, and that’s a bigger story than you may think. But Josh Berry is proving that whatever mold you put up to cast the future of the sport, there will be someone that comes along and breaks it. And in Berry case, it proves that hard work does pay off, and that no matter what background you come from, if you’re willing to put in the work that makes any champion race driver, you can carve your own path to the top.
Born on October 22nd, 1990, the 32 year old driver from Hendersonville, Tennessee carved the most obscure path possible to the upper echelon of the stock world. But his racing career started much like any other youth getting their start in racing, racing Karts at the local level in the Tennessee Karting Association, then graduating to the World Karting Association in 2001. And in 2006, he moved on from there to compete in Legend cars at Fairgrounds Speedway in 2006, and in 3 years he had collected at least 21 feature wins and the first taste of being a Champion early in his career. In the middle of that run, he was also doing online racing competing in the DMP Online Racing league, where he first met one Dale Earnhardt Jr. At the time, Berry, who was working as a bank teller to fund his racing and his stint at Volunteer State Community College, couldn’t have known how big that meeting with NASCAR’s most popular driver would later become. But he probably began to understand the magnitude of it when JR Motorsports signed a deal with him in 2010 to drive Late Model Stock cars for the team.
It was the break that Josh Berry needed in his racing career, and his Late Model Stock stats are nothing short of legendary. He is the 2020 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Champion, and the 2017 CARS Tour Champion, as well as the all time winningest driver on the CARS Tour, Late Model Stock’s most competitive series. In 2019 he won the biggest Late Model Stock race in the country, The ValleyStar Credit Union 300, but the list of big Late Model Stock wins runs the gamut of the most prestigious of them all, most recently taking the 2022 Thanksgiving Classic, a race he also won in 2021, and the 2022 Icebreaker, while also competing in the Xfinity Series full time with JR Motorsports. It was an easy choice of progression to the Xfinity Series as Josh Berry had become the first and only JRM driver to win multiple championships for the organization, as Berry also earned track championships at Hickory Motor Speedway and Motor Mile Speedway.
Berry has starts in the ARCA Menards Series and Craftsman Truck Series, but is becoming a staple in the Xfinity Series with 5 wins to date, putting him in the minds of the sports professionals and fans alike, but his second place finish in the Toyota Owners 400 this past weekend really opened some eyes to what kind of talent Josh Berry truly is. But short track racing fans already knew because Berry has been winning on America’s short tracks for quite awhile. As a matter fact, many in the short track racing world have wondered why it took so long for him to get the opportunity he deserved at the top levels of the sport. But it all came down to one word, money. Racing today takes a lot of cash and if you are a blue collar racer that means landing a huge sponsor. That fact alone had changed the dynamic of how drivers entered into the top levels of the sport, with driver development and huge sponsorship deals taking precedent. And honestly, the word on the street was to get to compete on the Craftsman Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and on the Cup level, you had to buy your way in. That sentiment, overlooked by the elite in the sport, was and is also creeping into the minds of short track racing fans. And in the era of the “development driver”, that sentiment grows each and every day. And if we are to be honest, it is causing quite the disconnect from the short track fan and NASCAR that is glaringly obvious if you dare to take an honest look. But Josh Berry is a counter to that.
Josh Berry is a throwback to the Dale Earnhardt Sr era, where the desire to race often overcame the cost. A throwback to the day when racing fans connected with a driver because in many ways they were like them. Dale Earnhardt was a cotton mill worker before he found real on track success, and in that way fans could relate. A racer that worked his way from the cotton mills of Kannapolis to the superspeedways of NASCAR on his way to becoming a 7 time champion. And though Josh Berry is not Dale Earhardt, he is proof to the working class racing fan that if you have the desire, the work ethic, and the skills necessary, you can indeed make it to the very top levels of stock car racing. And we find it only fitting that a short track racing bank teller from Hendersonville, Tennessee got his big break from Earnhardt Jr who knows all too well the story of how his father became one of the all time winningest and legendary drivers in the sport of auto racing. The simple truth is that Josh Berry is good for the sport, and his success is also a huge win for NASCAR.