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NASCAR: Berry earns runner-up finish at Richmond as Gray’s pit strategy pays off
Cody Ware, driver of the No. 51 Biohaven/Jacob Co. Ford, and Josh Berry, driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on April 2, 2023 in Richmond, Virginia. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

With just around 40 laps remaining in last Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway, interim crew chief Tom Gray decided to keep Josh Berry and the No. 9 car out on the track as the final green-flag pit stop cycle commenced.

As others went down pit road, Berry moved up to second position and looked to improve what was already another solid outing for him and the No. 9 crew. 

But Gray’s strategy paid off in the most productive way possible after a caution came out at lap 373 for a spin by the No. 45 car of Tyler Reddick. 

The yellow flag allowed Berry to get fresh tires and a chance to hold onto prime track position.

And hold onto it he did, fending off the likes of Ross Chastain and Christopher Bell to earn a career-best runner-up finish in a Cup Series race.

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“I’ve got to give all the credit to this NAPA team,” Berry said. “They made some great calls. When we got clean track we weren’t running bad lap times and I’m so glad they tried something different there at the end to just get us up front.”

Berry’s race took a long and winding path, starting in 30th position and getting spun out about a quarter of the way into the race.

He recovered from that incident and spent much of the race between 15th and 20th before being one of three drivers kept out during the final pit cycle, along with Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland. 

It was also another dominant race by Hendrick Motorsports, with Kyle Larson earning his first win of the season and the 20th of his Cup Series career.

William Byron, already a two-time race winner this season, won Stage One at Richmond and led 117 laps before getting spun out by Christopher Bell late in the race.

Alex Bowman continued his hot start to the season with an 8th-place finish — his sixth top-10 result in the first seven races of the season.

Bowman’s consistency puts him at the top of the regular season points standings with 263 points.

Also making an appearance at Sunday’s race was Pickens County native Chandler Smith, who won his first career Xfinity Series race the day before.

Sunday marked Smith’s first official Cup Series start after making an entry for the Daytona 500 but not qualifying. He finished 17th at the Toyota Owners 400. 

Next Sunday, the Cup Series will head to Bristol, Tennessee, for the Food City Dirt Race.