An unexpected twist has put Josh Berry on course for his NASCAR Cup Series debut.
Berry, the reigning NASCAR Weekly Series national champion, was already set to compete this weekend at Dover International Speedway in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports and the ARCA Menards Series.
But with Justin Haley held out of competition in accordance with NASCAR’s COVID-19 protocols, Berry got the nod to replace him in Spire Motorsports’ No. 77 Chevrolet for Sunday’s Cup race at the Monster Mile.
“It’s all happened rather quickly,” Berry said in a JRM team release. “To make my first Cup start…I hate the circumstances with Justin, but I’m incredibly grateful that they (Spire) thought of me. I’m excited to go and do a good job for them.”
The opportunity comes as Berry searches for ways to stay in NASCAR national series competition, whether with JRM or another organization.
He has four races left on his 12-race Xfinity schedule driving JRM’s No. 8 Chevrolet. Sam Mayer, the reigning ARCA Menards Series East champion, takes over the ride after his 18th birthday on June 26.
In eight starts this season, Berry has seen highs and lows. He earned his first career Xfinity win in April at Martinsville and a runner-up last weekend at Darlington. He’s also suffered three DNFs due to crashes.
In post-race comments at Darlington, Berry said no deals for the second half of this season had yet materialized.
“I’m available to talk to really anybody and do whatever,” he said. “I’ve had one conversation, maybe. But this is Sam’s ride the second half of the season. I knew that going into this. Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) was very adamant in giving me this opportunity and just hoping something special could happen.
“We’ve already won. I almost won today and run second. I don’t really know what else I have to prove. We’ve just gotta try to keep working at it and try to find some sponsorship and be able to try and find a way to put a deal together for next year, really.”
However, Berry insisted that he wasn’t frustrated. As someone who’s driven in late models for JRM since 2010 and had only select Xfinity opportunities in the decade that followed, he said he’s thankful for what has happened this year.
“No matter what happens after these last four races, if I find an opportunity with JRM or somewhere else or if I just go back racing late models, I’m still very fortunate to be here and be at JRM as long as I have and finally just land this opportunity,” he said at Darlington.
“I’m not frustrated, but like I said on TV, I’m just racing for my life. I’m just doing the best I can, trying my hardest, trying to get noticed.”
With Spire putting him in a Cup car for the first time, it seems to be working.
What a ride. 🙌🏻🙌🏻
— Josh Berry (@joshberry) May 14, 2021