Josh Berry hopes to improve on his showing in last year’s Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway and make a statement on one of short track racing’s biggest stages.
Berry showed speed throughout the day at last Saturday’s testing session for the marquee event at one of short track racing’s grandest venues. He hopes that speed will translate to this weekend’s racing action, especially after finishing 12th last season.
“We’ve been just kind of feeling it out,” Berry said after the testing session. “Last year, we weren’t quite where we wanted to be. We didn’t run as well as we wanted to race. We’ve been working on the car a lot today, trying to apply what we learned last year.”
With lessons learned and speed gained during the testing session, Berry now sets his sights on winning during Saturday’s CARS Tour Late Model Stock feature. The defending CARS Response Energy Late Model Stock Tour champion says a win at Bristol would be an incredibly impressive addition to his resume.
“This is a big race. Everyone pays attention to this race,” Berry said. “It’s something you obviously want to win. It would mean a lot to win here. This is one of those tracks that’s like a Martinsville or Richmond, it’s prestigious stuff to win here. It’s a tough place to race. It costs a lot of money to be here, it’s tough on equipment, and it takes a lot out of you. A win would be quite an accomplishment.”
For many of the competitors competing in the Short Track U.S. Nationals, Bristol is the biggest and fastest track they’ll see all year. This is no different for the CARS Late Model Stock Tour competitors, who often race on flatter, shorter tracks throughout the Carolinas and Virginia.
“It’s fast. It’s real fast,” Berry claimed. “It’s unlike anywhere else we run. We run a lot of smaller, shorter tracks. This is a high-banked, big track for us. It’s a challenge for me as a driver.”
This is also true for Berry’s new teammate, 14-year-old Sam Mayer. The Wisconsin driver has impressed this season, currently sitting fourth in CARS Late Model Stock Tour points after storming onto the radar with a strong showing at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. Together, Berry and Mayer are learning more about Bristol and gaining speed as a team.
“It’s a big difference from what he’s used to doing,” Berry said about Mayer. “We’re at the point where we’re going out there, seeing what we’ve got, and discussing afterwards. For his first time out, he did really well. He’s a good kid. This is a big challenge for anyone, especially at age 14. We’re just trying to preach to him to just be smart.”
While the young drivers surrounding Berry at JR Motorsports have changed throughout the years, he has remained the franchise player of the team’s Late Model Stock program. While Berry hopes to win on Saturday, he’s also proud of his contributions towards the team’s developmental efforts.
In fact, he predicted former JR Motorsports driver Anthony Alfredo would soon add a NASCAR K&N Pro Series victory to his belt just hours before the Connecticut driver did just that at South Boston Speedway (VA).
“We’ve been very fortunate to be one of the top teams for developing these young drivers,” Berry said. “I mean, William Byron, obviously, Anthony [Alfredo] now, I have a feeling he’s getting ready to start winning K&N races and put himself on the map. We’ve been really fortunate with what we’ve been able to do. I like to think I’ve been a good part of that, helping these kids, giving them a big mark to race against but also someone to lean on. It’s a balance.”
The Short Track U.S. Nationals return to the Last Great Colosseum in 2018 with six short track racing divisions in action. Race fans worldwide will be able to watch the excitement via a live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com. Early bird video tickets can be purchased today at a savings of $9.99. Click here to purchase your video tickets today.
-By Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com