With 24 wins and 33 top-5 finishes in 37 starts, calling 2020 a good season for Josh Berry would be an understatement.
Berry had more than twice as many wins as anyone else in NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Division I, helping him to roll to a national championship by nearly 30 points.
"It was really just amazing," 31-year-old Berry said. "We kind of set out the year, we didn’t really intend on competing for the national championship, and some things happened and schedules got changed obviously with everything going on in the world and it kind of led us to compete for it.
"It’s been pretty awesome. We had an awesome season and the last month or so has been pretty fun."
Berry and his JR Motorsports team found a home at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina, and realized really early in the summer they could be competing for something special. The team decided around August they would run for national points, travelling to a few more racetracks around the Carolinas and Virginia, including Southern National Motorsports Park, Dominion Raceway, Langley and Myrtle Beach Speedways.
The national championship was the first of Berry’s career.
– NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) October 20, 2020
"Really the last couple weeks we felt like we were in good shape," Berry said. "You never know what can happen with that deal though. I’ve learned that just from paying attention to it over the years. Really we went into the last couple weeks and Peyton Sellers had moved to second in the points so we really just decided to go race wherever he was in hopes of keeping him from bettering his score. Really that was kind of what our game plan was the last couple weeks. So we felt like as long as we were able to beat those guys there was no way they could catch us."
Berry called the national championship one of the highlights of his career, the other being his win in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway in October 2019. The Martinsville win served as something of a springboard for Berry in his career, and helped him gain confidence going into 2020.
"It’s just been incredible, really. Winning Martinsville was such a huge deal and it was a huge deal for me personally because that race had been pretty tough on me over the years," Berry said. "Martinsville was a huge goal for us, and to accomplish that it kind of led us to wonder if we could ever compete and win a national title, and that was kind of what led us to where we ended up this year.
"Those two things have just been amazing for me to accomplish. So many great drivers have done that. To be able to add my name to that list and be able to accomplish both of those things really meant a lot."
If the Martinsville win gave Berry confidence heading into 2020, a national championship is enough to give him even more confidence heading into 2021, when he’ll race part-time with JRM in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
– JR Motorsports (@JRMotorsports) October 22, 2020
Berry – who has raced seven times in the Xfinity Series, but not since 2017 – said he had talked a little bit with the team about maybe putting something together for 2021, but that call was much more unexpected than the one from NASCAR telling him he’d won a national title.
"For them to commit to me like they have and put together a deal for me, in the middle of everything we had going, it was just really amazing."
"I’ve had a few previous opportunities in the Xfinity Series that really didn’t pan out like I’d hoped," said Berry. "It’s been a few years since then and just in my career I’ve been able to accomplish a lot in that time so it makes me feel more prepared and confident going into next year and hopefully we can do some great things."
The team – with sponsors All Things Automotive and iRacing – has already started to get to work on next year. Until then, though, Berry is trying to soak up the last month and appreciate all his recent short track accomplishments.
"Over the last few years we’ve been able to have a lot of success which makes things a lot easier," he said. "And now we’ve got a little girl that is getting to go experience those things at the race track and go racing with, us so it’s a lot more special to enjoy those moments with her."