Josh Berry fought hard with his JR Motorsports teammates and was rewarded for it.
Berry held on to lead the final 23 laps after a heated battle with Justin Allgaier to score the NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
Berry and Allgaier battled hard for much of the race, combining to lead 152 of 200 laps. That contest came to an end when Allgaier contacted the outside wall and cut a right-rear tire, forcing him to pit road with 16 laps remaining.
Berry dominated the day, highlighted by his 18.039-second margin of victory over runner-up Ty Gibbs after leading a race-high 89 laps. Berry’s win, the second of the year and fourth of his career, marks JR Motorsports’ first Charlotte victory and is the team’s fourth triumph in the past five races.
“Man, it’s so amazing,” Berry told FS1. “This car was so good. (Crew chief) Mike (Bumgarner) and this whole group have worked so hard. We’ve been getting better every week. I think the sky’s the limit as we continue to learn about each other and keep getting better.”
The fight between Berry and Allgaier included tense racing with both drivers leaning on one another for the lead.
“That was a battle with Justin. It always is with us,” Berry said. “I don’t know. We always just seem to run good at the same places and always have to race each other. But he slipped up in (Turn) 1 and got the fence. I got loose too. I was following off him and he got loose and I got loose too. It all worked out.”
Allgaier was frustrated, crossing the line seventh, one lap down, after leading 63 laps and winning the second stage.
“Tried to put it all on the line today and get the best finish we could. Unfortunately, just came up a little bit short,” Allgaier said on FS1. “After the first contact in the wall down here (in Turn 1), I kind of thought maybe the right rear (tire) was going soft and ultimately it ended up going down, I got in the fence again and had to pit under green.
“So just disappointing but congrats to Josh and this whole JR Motorsports team. It’s nice to have the momentum we’ve got right now and we’re gonna keep riding that high.”
Trevor Bayne, who started from the rear of the field Saturday in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, was running third when green flag pit stops began with less than 50 laps remaining. However, Bayne was nabbed for speeding on pit road, relegating him to a ninth-place finish.
The first 120 laps of the event were full of attrition, including a first stage that saw four cautions for accidents.
The eighth and final caution of the day was for the biggest incident — a five-car pile up in Turn 3 at Lap 111. Cup regular Austin Dillon, piloting the No. 48 Chevrolet for Big Machine Racing, cut a right front tire after contact with Brandon Jones after a restart. Dillon tried to slow his car entering Turn 3 but the car carried up the banking and directly in front of Ryan Sieg. The pair slid up the track and into the outside wall, collecting Anthony Alfredo, Joe Graf Jr. and Stefan Parsons.
A crash at Lap 43 ended the first stage after Jeffrey Earnhardt slid high at the exit of Turn 4. The right rear of his No. 26 Toyota was caught by Ryan Ellis‘ left front, sending Kyle Weatherman crashing and Myatt Snider spinning. Ryan Vargas dove through the infield turf and escaped unscathed.
Completing the top five behind Berry and Gibbs were Sam Mayer, Noah Gragson and Ryan Preece. Gragson rebounded from a sour motor earlier in the day that sent him as far back as 30th place one lap down.
Stage 1 winner: Josh Berry
Stage 2 winner: Justin Allgaier
Who had a good race: Ty Gibbs was quiet all race long after starting from the rear of the field but steadily worked his way into the top five. The No. 54 Toyota didn’t lead any laps but scored points in both stages en route to his runner-up finish, his first top five since placing third at Dover.
Who had a bad race: Brandon Jones trudged up and down the running order all day long. After starting in the rear for unapproved adjustments like his JGR teammate Gibbs, Jones spun from 12th place at Lap 16 for the first caution of the day. That was followed by a long slide after a Stage 2 restart from near the front of the field that he saved while plummeting outside the top 20. He later brushed the wall once more and finished 16th, two laps down.
Notable: AJ Allmendinger contacted the wall late, resulting in a flat tire and unscheduled green flag pit stop. That relegated last year’s regular season champion to a 19th-place finish, two laps off the pace. This is Allmendinger’s first finish outside the top 10 all season. … Myatt Snider’s 10th-place finish is his third top 10 of the year.
Next race: The series heads to Portland International Raceway for the first time on June 4 (4:30 p.m. ET, FS1).