DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In a year nearly unprecedented in its upheaval and changes, directly impacting short track racers across NASCAR, Josh Berry put together a season as remarkable in its consistency and perseverance as it was in its excellence.
Consider, in 37 Late Model Stock Car races starting on June 27, the 29-year-old from Hendersonville, Tennessee, recorded one finish outside of the top 10.
It wasn’t just about rolling up good finishes.
Twenty-four times at four different race tracks, Berry drove the No. 88 All Things Automotive/iRacing Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports to Victory Lane. He capped the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series season this past weekend with a win at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday and a doubleheader sweep at Southern National Raceway Park in Kenly, North Carolina, on Sunday.
Josh Berry capped 2020 with a sweep at @SNM_Park Sunday
Now all that’s left is the official word in a call from #NASCAR ? this week letting him know he’s the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Division I national champion.@AdvanceAuto | @joshberry pic.twitter.com/w3lkEnEtKx
– NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) October 19, 2020
On Tuesday, Berry got the call from Steve O’Donnell, executive senior vice president and chief racing development officer at NASCAR, officially congratulating him on winning the 2020 Division I national championship.
“We just want to congratulate you on behalf of everyone at NASCAR and the France family on an incredible 2020 championship,” O’Donnell told him. “To you, Dale Jr., Kelley, and everyone at JR Motorsports, it has been an incredibly challenging year. You persevered, 24 wins – heck of a year, heck of a job – and we’re really proud to have you as our champion.”
For Berry, the call was expected after he built a nearly insurmountable lead over the last half of the season. But it was one that was almost inconceivable before this year.
“It was pretty amazing,” said Berry of getting the call. “A national champ is no something we really thought we’d be ever able to compete for.
“To be able to get the championship, with the amazing season we’ve had, it really means a lot.”
Berry finished with 24 wins, 33 top fives and 36 top 10s in 37 starts. A driver’s top 14 finishes this season counted toward their championship points, giving Berry 480.
He out-distanced 2007 national champion Peyton Sellers, who had 10 wins, 26 top fives and 28 top 10s in 30 starts and finished with 452 points. Sellers won the track championship at Virginia’s Dominion Raceway. Ryan Millington, who captured the track title at Hickory, finished third in the national standings. Millington had six wins, 20 top fives and 22 top 10s in 26 starts for 440 points.
Defending national champion Jacob Goede finished fourth with 422 points, racing at Elko Speedway in Minnesota as well as Wisconsin’s LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway and Madison International Speedway.
Brian Robie finished fifth, winning a tiebreaker with Nick Murgic. Robie had 10 wins at New Hampshire’s Hudson Speedway, Claremont Motorsports Park and Monadnock Speedway; Murgic won twice while racing at Madison, Elko and LaCrosse.
Sam Butler wrapped up the Josten’s Rookie of the Year and finished seventh in the final national standings.
Benjamin Byrne (Monadnock, Hudson, Claremont), Keith Rocco and Mason Diaz rounded out the top 10. Rocco, the 2010 national champion, won his NASCAR-record 18th track title with his championship at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway, while Diaz took home the title at Southern National.
18x NASCAR Track Champion @KidRocRacing
– Stafford Speedway (@StaffordSpeedwy) October 14, 2020
Berry credited his team, led by crew chief Ryan Vasconcellos, who has been with him for a decade. Together they won the 2012 Late Model title at Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway and the 2014 championship at Hickory.
For Berry, his 2020 race season started with five wins in eight starts at Hickory.
His “dream” season, however, dates back to last October when he won the annual postseason Late Model race at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway. He started on the pole and led every lap to win the race for the first time after seven previous failures.
“That was a huge boost,” said Berry. “I can’t even put into words what kind of night that was for us. That we a big weight off my shoulders, as a race car driver, that was a win that had eluded me.
“We turned this year into something special.”
– Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) August 30, 2020
In the offseason, he and his wife welcomed a baby girl. Racing close to home — he made 19 starts at Hickory — allowed him to have them at the race track with him.
“It’s been amazing,” said Berry. “That was really special to share all those moments with them.”
Berry finished sixth and 18th at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway on Aug. 1, the lone blip on an otherwise flawless season.
He bounced back with four more wins at Hickory, including a doubleheader sweep on Aug. 29 that he followed with a doubleheader sweep the next day at Southern National. The wins vaulted him to the top of the standings, a position he would not relinquish.
“That’s when we really looked at the points and knew we needed tighten down the rest of the season and hold those guys off and win it,” said Berry, who closed out the season with 13 wins in his last 15 starts. “We were really fast, and we had some luck, too, and that’s just hard to beat.
“This whole season, it was tough on everybody. We were just able to come together as a team, find a goal, and achieve it.”