Josh Berry has his shot.
The 31-year-old Berry begins his first full-time season in the NXS after running 29 races in the series since 2014, beginning with the Beef. It's What's For Dinner. 300 on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. The event marks the first of eight races for Berry this season in the HarrisonsUSA.com Chevrolet.
“I had a lot of strong runs with this team last season, so being able to work with them for the 2022 season has me fired up," Berry said. "These guys have won at Daytona in the past, so there’s no reason we can’t do it again this year. I am ready to hop in the Harrison’s USA Chevrolet and hopefully start the season off the right way.”
The team indeed had some incredible success with Berry last season. In 22 starts, he battled his way to two wins, six top fives and 12 top 10 finishes. Berry drove the No. 8 to his first career NXS win at Martinsville Speedway last season, and followed that with a win at Las Vegas in September.
Now, with a full-time schedule ahead, Berry has been focused on getting even better.
"Really I've just been working hard this offseason," he said. I've been getting in better shape and preparing. I have a 33-race season in front of me. It's just about taking care of myself and being in better shape and working on different driving techniques. We've done karting, a lot of sim time, iRacing, and a lot of just trying to maximize my potential as a driver."
That's taken some adjustment, as Berry is trading in the many hats required to compete on the late model stage to the sole focus of just driving the car.
"Primarily through my career, I always worked with the late model team and was extremely hands-on with the preparation of the car," he said. "I think a lot of times I was just so focused, and I loved that part of it so much, that maybe I didn't think about the other stuff. Now that I'm full-time in the Xfinity Series, the car preparation is on my team. That leaves a lot of time that I have to figure out what I need to do. And there's been a lot of stuff. A lot of training, lifting weights, a lot of focus and reaction time training as well as running, biking, and karting. It's been fun, for sure."
And while hands-on preparation might be in the rearview mirror, Berry said it will always be something he enjoys.
"Just seeing the car come together, just the processes it takes. It's always fun to see how nice you can build a car, how fast. Anytime, even if you build car after car, you still enjoy that process and seeing it come together. I'm sure this year there will be some times they need some extra help, and I'll be ready to jump in there and help them."
Now, the focus is on gaining experience and putting himself and his team in the best situation every time out.
"Obviously we'll have a good plan for tracks like Martinsville that I've been to before, but other tracks it's going to be all about just getting me laps. I've been to most of the tracks except a handful of road courses. We've really worked hard this winter on road course racing, just getting reps doing that because it's so different. I feel like my confidence is pretty high, we just need to continue what we had going on last year."
Crew Chief Mike Bumgarner said Berry's racing background, while not rich in NXS seat time, is something that shines through. The two have forged a relationship based on experience and understanding.
"I don't have to tell Josh a lot of things," he said. "He will figure it out. And I'm an older guy who's been around racing a long time, and Josh doesn't have to remind me of a lot of things, probably. It's just that kind of relationship."
That relationship, a good team situation, and Berry's talent have led to some high hopes for Bumgarner.
"What we were able to accomplish with Josh with this team at the end of last year running limited races, I think the sky's the limit for us," he said. "I hope to be able to put together some races and for us to win some races and be solid in points. I want that 15 bonus points at mid-season. That's my goal. I haven't really talked to Josh a lot about goals yet, but I kind of mirror us with a couple of teams that have run the Xfinity Series in the past couple of years: keep our nose clean, get solid points, and race the guys for championships and wins throughout the year. Not just hit or miss, but putting together a solid effort every week."