DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Josh Berry has a lot to be happy about and this week has been a good week for the 23 year-old native of Hendersonville, Tennessee.
He just won his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model division championship at Hickory Motor Speedway – and second overall – and announced he will be making his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series start in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Berry won his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track title at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia in 2012. He said winning at Hickory was something special.
“We ran at Hickory Motor Speedway a couple of times last year and decided to go back and run some there this year,” Berry said. “We had such a good start and it was close to home so we decided to go ahead and run there full-time and it paid off for us.”
Now Berry can add his name to the likes of Earnhardt, Jarrett and Houston that are well-known names to fans of NASCAR racing that have won championships at Hickory.
“One of the things we talked about with Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) and Kelley (Earnhardt-Miller) was that it was neat to win a title at a track they used to compete at and Dale was really excited when we won the Bobby Isaac Memorial race a couple of weeks ago,” Berry added.
Berry is the latest driver to show success from the NASCAR ladder system as he traveled to Iowa Speedway in August to make his first Nationwide start finishing a respectable 12th after qualifying and running in the top-10 for most of the race.
Berry is quick to credit his experience in the Whelen All-American Series to help him prepare to move up in his racing career.
“I truly believe a late model stock is the way to go when you are starting out,” said Berry. “You can learn a lot about a car and racing on different tracks can help you prepare to handle racing at the next level. I just think it is neat to be able to come from a track championship at Hickory to racing a Nationwide car at Homestead.”
In addition to his race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Berry has earned a seat to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame / Charlotte Convention Center on Friday, Dec. 12 as a track champion.
NASCAR will crown 58 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champions across the United States and Canada. In addition, NASCAR will celebrate the top three finishers in the national standings, as well as U.S. state and Canadian province champions, top finishers in the Div. II-V and special award winners in Charlotte.
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I drivers are ranked by their best 18 NASCAR points finishes in series-sanctioned events. Drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of – up to 18 cars – and three points for a win, with an additional two points available if the driver starts 10th or lower.
Anthony Anders is just days away from clinching his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship. The Easley, South Carolina, driver will wrap up the track title at South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway Saturday, and he has also competed at Hickory Motor Speedway against Berry this season.
In 45 starts at Greenville, Hickory and South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway and Anderson Speedway, Anders has 28 wins, 39 top fives and 42 top 10s. His single-season win total ties him with Richie Evans (1983) for 10th most in series history.
Lee Pulliam, of Semora, North Carolina, sits second with 24 wins, 39 top fives and 40 top 10s in 44 starts. Pulliam also has wins at Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway in Radford and South Boston Speedway, and North Carolina’s Caraway Speedway in Sophia.
Connecticut’s Keith Rocco remains in third place in the standings with 695 points. He has 16 wins, 34 top fives and 38 top 10s in 44 starts. Rocco races at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and Waterford Speedbowl.
Dillon Bassett, who has competed at seven tracks throughout the southeast, and Ryan Preece (Thompson, Stafford, Waterford and New York’s Riverhead Raceway) complete the top five.
Chad Finchum (Virginia’s Lonesome Pine and Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway) is sixth, while Peyton Sellers (South Boston, Langley, Caraway, Motor Mile) is sixth after clinching the 2014 Late Model Division championship at South Boston this past weekend.
Kres Van Dyke (Virginia’s Lonesome Pine and Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway) and Tommy Lemons Jr. (South Boston, Southern National, Caraway and Motor Mile) followed Sellers in seventh and eighth while Stewart Friesen (New York’s Utica-Rome Speedway and Pennsylvania’s Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville) completes the top 10.
Despite missing a race on Aug. 2 at Hickory to compete in the Nationwide race at Iowa, Berry was able to outdistance JR Motorsports teammate William Byron for the track title by 34 points. He also took home the Paramount Kia Big 10 championship in a series of special events held at his home track this season.
Byron also brought home an award to JR Motorsports after he collected Rookie of the Year honors for the team at Hickory.
Berry is third in the North Carolina standings and 14th in the national standings. While some people might think it is a lot of pressure driving for the most popular driver in stock car racing, Berry says he honestly doesn’t feel it like some might think.
“Obviously, I am very fortunate to get to drive a car for Dale and Kelley,” said Berry. “But as a racer I always put pressure on myself to be successful more than other people do, but I also want to perform well for them and be as good as I can be in the car.”
Berry will have sponsorship from Ragu at Homestead-Miami and feels that his next opportunity will be a great one for him and his team.
“I can’t thank Ragu enough for believing in me to drive the car at Homestead,” Berry added. “JR Motorsports has enjoyed a lot of success this season in the series and I want to help build on that with this race at Homestead.”
Other NASCAR Division I track champions that were finalized last weekend include:
Chris Spieker (Adams County Speedway, Corning, Iowa), Jay Linstroth (All American Speedway, Roseville, Calif.), Gord Shepherd (Barrie (Ont.) Speedway), Todd Stone (Devil’s Bowl Speedway, West Haven, Vt.), Jeff Strunk (Grandview Speedway, Bechtesville, Penn.), Amy Catalano (Holland (N.Y.) Motorsports Complex), Cody Robinson (Kil-Kare Speedway, Xenia, Ohio), Kristopher McKean (Magic Valley Speedway, Twin Falls, Idaho), Todd Patnode (Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, N.H.), and Tommy Lemons Jr. (Southern National Motorsports Park, Lucama, N.C.).
In addition to Division I honors, NASCAR will also award national championships for Divisions II through V. The Div. II-V national champions will receive a trophy and a trip to the series national awards. In addition, the top-three dirt and top-three asphalt drivers in each division will be invited to Charlotte.
-NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications Press Release
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com