Harrison's Racing: Josh Berry Daytona 500 Advance

Josh Berry’s first points-paying race in the NASCAR Cup Series comes at the site of the first race he remembers.

It’s been 27 years.

Berry recalls watching Jeff Gordon win the 1997 Daytona 500, and that’s when the six-year-old Berry knew he wanted to be a part of Cup Series racing.

On Wednesday night, he’ll pull the straps tight and fulfill a childhood dream as his qualifying run will kick off his participation in the sport’s most prestigious event.

“When you have a chance to reflect on your early days as a kid watching the sport and growing up at a racetrack, there are times that you can pick out and remember and, for me, the 1997 Daytona 500 is just one of those races,” Berry said. “I felt like that was one I remember all the parts and events of – I am sure I watched others before it – but in my memory, that is the one that stands out, and to be able to compete at the 500 makes this weekend more significant for me.”

While the Daytona 500 marks Berry’s first official points-paying Cup Series start as a fulltime driver for 2024, his most recent Cup Series appearance and 10th of 2023 came in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona last August. He qualified 29th and finished 22nd in the No. 42 Legacy Motorsports Club entry. The Cup Series rookie will look to build on that experience this week during the Duel and the two practice sessions that follow on Friday and Saturday prior to taking the green flag on Sunday. Berry has turned laps on superspeedways in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports and has a career-best fifth-place finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in October 2022. He started that race seventh.

Berry knows, though, that the Daytona 500 is a different beast. He’s prepared to learn all he can in the race’s pressure-cooker atmosphere.

“The biggest thing for me to learn is just how the NextGen cars are at speedways,” he said. “I have a little bit of experience in the new car, but to continue to build on my notebook of experience is going to be the biggest hurdle for me. Obviously, working with the No. 4 team and Eddie will be important and we can do that Thursday and Friday. I think the other thing is just learning how to survive the speedway race and be there at the end when it counts.”

Getting to the end on Sunday is something Berry and the No. 4 team don’t have a hard-and-fast strategy for just yet. Instead, they’ll led their experiences during the week show them the way.

 “I think that depends on where you qualify and how your Duel race goes,” Berry said. “I think that it can be a bit of a moving target, it depends on how your week is going. We want to qualify well and race up front and get that experience on Thursday, and I think that will help me for Sunday. I think on Sunday we just have to make it to the end. You need to spend some time racing up front and see how your car is handling, but it is a bit of risk versus reward and we just have to be smart to be there at the end.”

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