In his third race filling in for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car, Josh Berry had a consistent and largely positive performance in the Ambetter 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 19.
Joey Logano won on a last-lap pass of Brad Keselowski, securing Logano’s first career Atlanta win and denying Keselowski his first win as owner-driver of the No. 6 car.(Story continues below)
Berry’s team was led by interim crew chief Tom Gray, who is serving in the role following NASCAR’s decision to penalize Hendrick Motorsports for unapproved hood louver modifications.
The No. 9 team worked with the situation and put together an all-around solid race, finishing 18th.
Before the race, Berry talked to reporter Daniel Baldwin about his current experience driving in place of Elliott.
“There’s going to be a lot to take away from this opportunity, on track and off the track. It’s going to make me better going forward,” Berry said. “[Chase] has been super helpful whenever I’ve needed it…I’m just trying to fill in the best I can and keep these guys moving in the same direction.”
Starting 21st, Berry had a mostly uneventful opening stage before eventually showing significant speed after the 100-lap mark of the 260-lap race.
Having been pushed farther back in the pack in Stage One, Berry returned to his starting position by lap 90 and entered the top 20 by lap 100.
From there, he quietly moved his way up several more spots before the first green-flag pit stops began around lap 125.
While the No. 9 crew waited until lap 138 for their pit stop, their choice to take only fuel meant that Berry gave up very little track position.
He exited the pit cycle in 11th position and finished in that spot at the conclusion of Stage Two at lap 162.
Needing to take four tires during the stage caution, Berry began the final stage in 18th but soon made his best and boldest moves of the day.
Just a few laps into the final stage, Berry pushed himself into three-wide situations, challenging the likes of Kyle Larson and Ross Chastain.
In a short stretch from lap 180 to lap 183, Berry successfully moved from 15th to 10th, largely using the less-used inside lane to work his way around other drivers.
He reached as far up as eighth before getting caught up in the first multi-car wreck of the day at lap 191, which was initiated when Kevin Harvick got loose in front of Chastain, causing a chain reaction.
The No. 9 car was damaged but was able to continue
Following repairs made during the caution, Berry returned to the track in 25th before getting the opportunity to have additional repairs made when another caution flag came out at lap 210.
With then-leader Aric Almirola’s blown tire pausing the race once more, the No. 9 team took that time to make the rest of Berry’s day as smooth as possible.
At the next green flag, Berry started 22nd and remained there for an extended period.
But with just under 20 laps left, Berry made his final major move of the day, finally getting around Austin Dillon and moving four more spots to finish 18th.
Next week at the Circuit of the Americas, the No. 9 car will be driven by Jordan Taylor, the 2017 International Motor Sports Association SportsCar Champion in the Prototype Class.
Dawsonville’s Georgia Racing Hall of Fame had a multi-car display at the AMS Fan Zone, bringing the state’s rich racing history to thousands of fans.