When one door closes, another door opens. That was the case for JR Motorsports Late Model driver Josh Berry in 2020. After winning the 2019 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville, the goals were high for 2020 with a chance at another CARS Tour title. But like nearly everything in our world, 2020 had a way of shaking everything up.
After receiving a one-race suspension from CARS Tour officials following an incident with Bobby McCarty at Ace Speedway in June, Berry’s plans for the season changed. Instead of chasing the CARS Tour championship, he made the decision to go after his first career NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series championship.
Prior to the start of the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series, Berry kicked off his 2020 season with a sweep of Late Model Stock Car races at Hickory Motor Speedway on May 16. On June 27, he returned to the “World’s Most Famous Short Track” and swept another pair of 40-lap races.
July saw a limited amount of success, with splits at Hickory in doubleheaders and three additional victories at the track. If Berry was going to contend for the title, he would ultimately need to log wins outside of Hickory.
In late August, the planets began to align for Berry. He swept the features at Hickory on August 29 and won a pair of races on August 30 at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC) for a weekend total of four wins.
That led into a hot September that saw sweeps at Southern National and Langley Speedway (VA). He also won twice more at Hickory, which put him into double digits at his home track.
At this point people were all but giving Berry the national title, but the JR Motorsports team was not going to stop there.
The final weekend was just a curtain call for Berry. He won his fourth career Fall Brawl 200 at Hickory on Saturday after setting fast time. It was his 14th win of the season at Hickory and 40th career victory at Hickory, leaving him third behind 1990 national champion Max Prestwood and former NASCAR Truck Series winner Dennis Setzer.
A day after the Fall Brawl victory, Berry took a pair of wins at Southern National to leave no doubt as to who the national champion was for the 2020 season.
In all, Berry collected 24 NASCAR wins in 37 starts. Thirty-three of those were in the top five and only one was outside the top 10. His other two wins pushed his season total to 26 victories.
His win total is better than national champions of recent years and the winning percentage is impressive as well.
One thing that made it easier for Berry, if there is such a thing, is that his competition for the title was in his own backyard. Ryan Millington was on top of the points for a while with his Hickory success this year. The two drivers combined to win 21 races at Hickory this year. Berry got the national title, while Millington won the track championship at Hickory.
Being able to see Millington and what he needed to do with points helped Berry focus on the task at hand. In the past when chasing the national championship, drivers are often wondering who they are competing against and how they’re performing. The internet and cell phones have made tracking easier, but competing against someone on the opposite end of the country creates an interesting dynamic.
The 26 wins this year is amazing, but we know that Berry is going to Greenville-Pickens Speedway for this weekend’s CARS Tour Old State Nationals with something to prove. The last time there was this much money on the line in a Late Model Stock Car race, Berry took it all.
-Story by: Elgin Traylor, Speed51 Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51