June 23, 2024: NASCAR Cup Series races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (HHP/Jacy Norgaard)
Josh Berry finished third at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (HHP/Jacy Norgaard)

Berry, Briscoe Hit Stride In The Wet, Finish Top Three

LOUDON, N.H. — For two-thirds of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Chase Briscoe and Josh Berry were nowhere to be found.

Admittedly, both struggled mightily. They ran well outside the top 20 with frustration building toward a seemingly long afternoon.

But as Stage Two came to an end, it appeared weather may become a factor. The question: when?

For the Stewart-Haas Racing duo, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

NASCAR threw the red flag after 219 laps for rain, and after a delay of more than two hours, the race resumed in the wet. Teams were forced to switch to the treaded wet-weather tires for the rest of the race.

Little did they know, Mother Nature changed both of their afternoons for the better.

“The rain saved us,” Briscoe said.

Briscoe ultimately piloted his No. 14 Ford Mustang Dark Horse to second, while Berry took home third. Christopher Bell outdueled them in a series of late restarts to secure a sweep of the weekend.

“What a whirlwind. Two hours ago, we couldn’t even run 25th,” Briscoe said after climbing from his car. “If it wasn’t for the rain we were going to literally run 24th probably. We had a couple of good restarts, and the guys did a good job of understanding the rain balance.

“We knew typically on the road courses and even the ovals that we’ve ran in the rain, we’ve been pretty good truthfully. I didn’t expect to drive up to second, but yeah, really good recovery.”

After the lengthy delay, NASCAR opened up pit road so all teams could put on the wet-weather tires – non-negotiable. Teams were bound to stay on them and couldn’t change at their discretion.

As the track continued to naturally dry, NASCAR didn’t change its mind. Under a caution with 31 laps to go, teams were required to pit again for another set of wets. With 12 to go, cars had the option of pitting only for wets.

But Briscoe and Berry continued to benefit.

Running fifth and sixth with eight to go, Michael McDowell overdrove turn one and cleaned out Ryan Blaney, causing yet another slowdown.

That set up Berry’s best opportunity of the evening. He moved up to the front row with the choose rule, but still had to battle the dominant Bell machine. Briscoe settled for the second row. 

Of course, Bell won that battle. But Berry held onto second as the caution came out again with two to go, shaping up overtime.

Rather than taking the front row again, he decided to restart behind Bell in fourth.

“We were debating back and forth on bottom or top,” Berry explained. “I really wanted to take the front row, but it was just — it just seemed slick down there, and I just felt like I would be stuck racing probably Chase, who would have been on the outside.”

Once again, Bell won. He pulled away in the two-lap duel for the ninth win of his career and the second in the last five races.

In a drag-race, Briscoe ended up squeezing past Berry for second.

“I really pushed Christopher out there really hard, and I think that kind of checked my momentum,” Berry said. “Then I just got a little loose off of two and got Chase back to my left rear. He kind of drug me back, and we got stuck racing and had to drag race there to the line.

“I am going to think back to a million things I could have done differently there but the bottom was just so hard to get going through one and two.”

Both drivers scored needed bouncebacks with their results Sunday. Briscoe had been on a stretch of four races with finishes of 17th or worse, dropping outside the top 16 in points. With the runner-up, Briscoe closed the gap from 44 points to just 25 behind Joey Logano.

Berry jumped two spots to 21st on the playoff grid heading to his hometown Nashville Superspeedway next week.