28 MAY 2022: During the ALSCO 300 at CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY in CONCORD,NC (HHP/Tim Parks)
Josh Berry following his second NASCAR Xfinity win of 2022. (HHP/Tim Parks)

Josh Berry: New ‘Hot Boot’ Of NASCAR Xfinity Series

Josh Berry was “definitely out of” his “comfort zone.”

It was early May and the JR Motorsports driver had just won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race of 2022, in the April 30 race at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway.

The day after the race, the marketing and design group at the team co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. had an idea.

Ahead of the NASCAR Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway, why not have some fun? They proposed a photoshoot dedicated to Berry’s sponsor, Harrison’s, that paid homage to an old Dale Earnhardt Sr. ad.

From 1986, it showed Earnhardt leaning back next to his second NASCAR Winston Cup championship trophy, feet propped up right in front of the camera.

The ad copy simply says: “Hot Foot.”

In 2022, with Berry leaning back next to his Dover trophy and his Harrison’s boots propped up, it read: “Hot Boot.”

The idea of being compared to Earnhardt in some way made the 31-year-old Berry a little “apprehensive” at first but he was “still up for doing it.”

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A recent ad by JR Motorsports and Harrison’s next to its Dale Earnhardt inspiration

“I think back to in the late model car, as well as the Xfinity car, doing the throwback races, I’m always ‘I’m not going down the Dale Earnhardt No. 3 route,'” Berry told SPEED SPORT. “I felt out of place there. … I feel like I’m pretty humble and I’m respectful of the legends of the sport. If Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants to do a pose like that, that’s one thing, but for me to do it, I was kind of like, ‘man, what are they gonna say?'”

When he saw the final product, the Tennessee native was satisfied. It helped that JR Motorsports wasn’t just doing the homage for the heck of it.

“This sport is results driven, right” Berry said. “It was coming off a win and that makes it a little easier to do things like that as well.”

It could be argued that the ad served as proclamation: Josh Berry had arrived.

Sure, Berry won twice in 2021. The first victory coming at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, a track he’d had plenty of success on at the late model level.

Then months later he grabbed another at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the playoffs. However, that came in a substitute role as Berry piloted the No. 1 car typically driven by Michael Annett, who was injured at the time.

“Obviously, the Martinsville one is probably the most special in that it was really just super personal and really just life changing for me,” Berry said. “Each one after that has just kind of re-solidified my place I feel like it’s in the Xfinity Series, especially this year.”

On a No. 8 team solely built around him, Berry has added two more wins. A month after Dover, Berry put on a show at Charlotte Motor Speedway, battling teammate Justin Allgaier and leading a race-high 89 laps and winning by 18 seconds over Ty Gibbs.

Hot Boot, indeed.

“This year, Dover and Charlotte both were super special for me for a number of reasons,” Berry said. “Obviously, locking ourselves into the playoffs and I think really now, probably after Charlotte, establishing us as somebody that’s gonna be in a great position when the playoffs start and really establishing myself as a playoff and championship contender I feel like.”

Of the tracks he’s competed on so far with JR Motorsports, his success at Dover surprised him the most.

It wasn’t a track he expected his driving talents to match up with.

“I was actually super nervous to go to Dover last year, because I’ve watched races there since I was a kid and the place looks super hard,” Berry said. “You’ve seen certain people dominate there, right? The Jimmie Johnson’s, the Kevin Harvick’s, those guys dominate and even Justin (Allgaier) in the Xfinity Series is super good there. So you know that it’s kind of one of those tracks that fits a certain driver, or a specific mindset. I’m not really sure I know why that it fit me. . … really just took to the place. Sometimes you can’t really explain it.”

One track style Berry is still getting his hands around is road course racing.

He’s made two road course starts with JRM, last year at Mid-Ohio where he finished eighth and this year at Circuit of The Americas, where he placed a dismal 27th.

“It’s been a big part of my preparation, not just this week, but really since last November, getting prepared for that style of racing,” Berry said. “We have several those races coming up. So we’re kind of using it each one as an opportunity to just build a notebook and learn with the end goal being getting to the Charlotte roval in the playoffs, and performing at a higher level where we can hold ourselves in that playoff round.”

Berry’s next chance to improve on a road course is this weekend.

The NASAR Xfinity Series makes its inaugural trip to Portland Int’l Raceway, a 1.967-mile road course.

Some road course aces, like A.J. Allmendinger, have shown a knack for short tracks in NASCAR.

Does Berry think that crossover can go both ways?

“I feel like they definitely do translate,” Berry said. “It’s a different type of racing. But I think a lot of the basic principles seem to translate. And at the end of the day, a lot of these tracks, especially like a place like Portland, are a bunch of short tracks kind of put together. … I think what I lack the most is just experience and probably confidence and just knowing that I can get get the most out of the car and make it to the end of the race.”

Going into what will be his 44th career Xfinity Series starts, but his 14th full-time, how does four-time NASCAR winner Berry view himself?

Is he now a true blue “NASCAR driver” or does he still think of himself as a late model driver?

“This is a tough question to answer, but I guess I’ll answer it the best I can,” Berry said. “I feel like there’s different types of people in this sport. And they all have their place, right? You look at some guys (who) are drivers and some people are just kind of a racer, and I feel like I just kind of fall in that racer category. I’ve drove a lot of different things, accomplished a lot of things, been super hands-on and evolved in my racing over the years and just have loved to race and love to build race cars and work on race cars. And so … I’ve never really looked at myself as a driver, because I feel like I’m more than that. I feel like I can bring more to the table than just strapping in the car. …

“I don’t really feel like I necessarily feel like I’m a Xfinity Series driver, I don’t feel like I’m any different.”

Listen to the full interview with Josh Berry below.

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