- Lap 25
POS 1 | LEADER
POS 2 | 4.398
POS 3 | 8.171
Josh Berry rolls at Las Vegas, speeds to second Xfinity Series win in 1-2-3 JRM finish
LAS VEGAS — Josh Berry seized opportunity and drove away from the competition Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Tabbed to substitute for injured JR Motorsports driver Michael Annett, the Tennessee late-model champion Berry earned his second win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season, claiming an impressive 4.396-second victory in the playoff opener.
Berry, 30, led a 1-2-3 JR Motorsports team sweep in the Alsco Uniforms 302 — besting teammates Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson, whose second- and third-place finishes were tops among the 12 playoff-eligible drivers.
It was the second consecutive night one team showed the way up front at the Vegas 1.5-miler. On Friday, the ThorSport Racing team swept the top four positions in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff race.
Berry won at the Martinsville, Virginia, short track earlier this year in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet he will drive full-time next year. He matched that standard Saturday in the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. And he drove four other races this season in the No. 31 Chevrolet for team owner Jordan Anderson.
“Oh my gosh, that thing was so fast, it just took me a while to figure out,” Berry said. “I just had to stay disciplined and keep working on it and the guys made the right adjustments. And it was fast, man. Finally got a long run and got it all together.”
As for racing his teammates, who are fighting for the championship?
“It was tough,” Berry said. “Me and Justin raced together a lot this year and most of them, he‘s gotten the better of me. Today we were able to get one. This is cool.”
Eight of the 12 Xfinity Series playoff drivers finished among the top 10, including championship leader Austin Cindric of Team Penske in fourth and Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Daniel Hemric and Brandon Jones in fifth and sixth, respectively.
Regular-season champion AJ Allmendinger, who won Stage 1 for a season-best 10th stage win, was seventh. Ty Gibbs, who joined Berry as the only two non-playoff drivers among the top 10 finished eighth. Allmendinger‘s Kaulig Racing teammate, Justin Hailey, was ninth and JGR‘s Harrison Burton 10th. Playoff driver Myatt Snider finished 15th, the last title-eligible driver running at the end of the race.
The sweep up front was indicative of the evening as the JR Motorsports teammates paced the field all night. Allgaier led a race-best 90 laps and won Stage 2.
Berry took the lead from Allgaier with 42 laps remaining, relinquishing it only during late-race pit stops. Berry retook the position with 17 laps and drove away for the victory.
Gragson‘s third-place finish was remarkable considering the Las Vegas native was penalized twice on pit road and still drove through the field multiple times.
“I need to be better and they brought an unbelievable race car to the track, and I‘m happy for Josh and happy for everyone at JR Motorsports, just wish we could have been the guy,” Gragson said. “We have really fast race cars at JR Motorsports and everyone is super proud.”
A handful of playoff drivers were on the other end of fortune Saturday with Riley Herbst, Jeb Burton and Jeremy Clements all having their race cut short because of a 12-car accident on the restart after the competition caution period.
“I don‘t really think we need to be four-wide getting into (Turn) 1 on Lap 26,‘‘ Burton said. “Nothing we could do there, frustrating. We needed a good run today, but we‘ll go to Talladega next week and win a race.
“Won there earlier in the year and almost won Daytona a couple weeks ago, so I know I can go do it. Have the best team in the garage at speedway tracks, so we‘ll go get it done next week and then go to the Roval.”
With his fourth-place finish at Vegas, Cindric takes a seven-point lead over Allmendinger in the playoff standings. Allgaier is 28 points back, followed by Gragson (-29) and Hemric (-32).
The Xfinity Series’ next race is scheduled next Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway. The Sparks 300 (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM) is the second of three events in the postseason’s opening Round of 12. Jeb Burton won at Talladega this spring. Justin Haley is the defending playoff race winner.
Note: Post-race inspection in the Xfinity Series garage was completed without major issue. Berry’s No. 1 JRM Chevy was found with one unsecured lug nut in a post-race check, which should result in a fine for crew chief Mike Bumgarner on next week’s penalty report.
Contributing: Staff reports