Josh Berry impresses in ‘Hail Mary’ race for JR Motorsports

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RICHMOND, Va. – Was Friday night the start of something special? Or will it be a night that Josh Berry will look upon years later with pride but also a nagging sense of what could have been?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. called putting Berry – a 24-year-old who competes for JR Motorsports’ Late Model team – a “Hail Mary,’’ a chance to put him in a good car and hope Berry could use his short-track skills at Richmond International Raceway to record a good finish and attract sponsor attention.

Berry, the 2014 track champion at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway, impressed with a seventh-place in what is scheduled to be his only Xfinity start of the season. His run included a pass for position of Kyle Busch – Berry admits he thought at the time “Holy cow, I just passed Kyle Busch’’ – and a surge through the field that had he not been blocked in his pit stall on his final stop, he might have challenged for the lead.

But it’s what comes next that could define Berry’s career and if he’s to run more races in the Xfinity Series or if he remains at the Late Model level.

“I’m ready to race Josh every week,’’ Earnhardt said. “We’ve just got to find a partner.’’

While some will cry this is the flaw in auto racing – money supersedes talent in many cases – it’s a reality. Earlier this week, car owner Rick Hendrick noted how he put Jeff Gordon in a Sprint Cup car before he had sponsorship for it in 1992. Asked if he would do it now, Hendrick quickly said no. Costs are too great for such a gamble.

JR Motorsports is no different. It has to be responsible for its employees. Earnhardt says they want to run three teams next year and could run four but that’s all dependent on sponsorship.

The quest for sponsorship is a reason why Elliott Sadler reportedly will join the organization next year, bringing along his sponsor. It’s why there’s been no announcement if Regan Smith will return even though Earnhardt says he’d like Smith back. JR Motorsports also would like to run Ben Rhodes, a promising 18-year-old who won the K&N Pro Series East title a year ago, in more races.

Money matters.

Earnhardt’s notion of a “Hail Mary’’ might be a little off. For Berry, who ran two Xfinity races last year, he might need the equivalent of winning the lottery.

Then again, all it takes is one time to get that chance and have the opportunity to race full-time in the Xfinity Series.

“You never know who might have been watching the race,’’ said Earnhardt, after celebrating Chase Elliott‘s win for the organization. “You never know who might want to be involved in a company like JR Motorsports or even not knowing there’s an opportunity. There’s a lot of people out there that may assume we’re full and we’ve got all the sponsors and partners we need. Someone might see that there’s an opportunity and call us up and show some interest in Josh and further his career.’’

 

Report: Justin Allgaier returning to JR Motorsports in 2020

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Justin Allgaier confirmed to Catchfence.com Friday that he will remain with JR Motorsports in 2020.

It will be Allgaier’s fifth season in the Xfinity Series with JRM.

“I will be back next year. Same deal,” Allgaier told Catchfence.com “Everything is good. We’re doing the same thing next that we are doing right now.”

Allgaier, 33, is fourth is the point standings entering this weekend’s race at Road America (3 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN).

Allgaier is the only driver in the top six in points without a win this year.

 

Xfinity Series practice report from Road America

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Christopher Bell was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice Friday at Road America.

Bell posted a top speed of 108.562 mph around the road course.

The top five was completed by Matt DiBenedetto (108.106 mph), AJ Allmendinger (108.091), Justin Haley (107.927) and Cole Custer (107.895).

Chase Briscoe recorded the most laps in the session with 19.

The session was stopped with about 50 minutes left for a hard crash by Brandon Jones exiting Turn 11. Jones will go to a backup car for Saturday’s race.

Just before Jones’ wreck, the left-rear truck arm mount broke on Jeremy Clements‘ No. 51 Chevrolet and his car stalled on the track.

The red flag was brought out for the second time when Preston Pardus’ No. 43 Chevrolet stalled on the track. His car then stalled a second time in the final minute of the session.

The session had a third red flag when Josh Williams‘ car stalled on the track.

Click here for the practice report.

First Practice

Bell was fastest, posting a top speed of 108.559 mph around the road course.

The top five was completed by defending race winner Justin Allgaier (108.530 mph), Cindric (108.346), DiBenedetto (108.139) and Allmendinger (107.967).

Chase Briscoe recorded the most laps with 14.

The session was stopped once for debris with 35 minutes left in the session.

Minor incidents in the session included Noah Gragson briefly going off course and a spin by Dexter Bean.

Click here for the practice report.

Updated entry lists for Xfinity, Truck Series this weekend

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While the NASCAR Cup Series will be off this weekend, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any racing.

On the contrary, the Xfinity Series will be racing Saturday at Road America and the Truck Series will compete Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Here are the entry lists for both series:

Xfinity – CTECH Manufacturing 180 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 38 cars entered.

Regan Smith will be in the No. 8 J.R. Motorsports Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger will drive the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Saturday’s Cup runner-up, Matt DiBenedetto, will drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Ryan Vargas is entered in JD Motorsports’ No. 4 Chevrolet for his second start of the year.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Chevrolet Silverado 250 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1)

There are only 29 Trucks listed for the entry list. A full field would be 32 trucks.

Alex Tagliani is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota for his first start of the year.

Dylan Lupton is entered in Young’s Motorsports’ No. 20 Chevrolet.

Click here for the entry list.

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Friday schedule for Xfinity Series at Road America

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series hits the track today with two practices at Road America in preparation for Saturday’s race.

The wunderground.com forecast for Friday calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 69 degrees and a 10% chance of rain during the day.

Here is today’s schedule at Road America:

(All times are Eastern)

10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1:35 – 2:25 p.m. – Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

3:35 – 4:55 – Final Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)