2022 NXS Playoff Preview: Playoffs Suit Berry's Style, Adaptability of No. 8 Team

Ron Lemasters | 9/21/2022

Harrison's Josh Berry News Tire Pros

Josh Berry and the No. 8 team enter the playoffs with two wins and nine top-five finishes on the season.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 20, 2022) -- In his first full season as a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver, Josh Berry has shown remarkable adaptability to the full gamut of track types on which the series competes.

For example, Berry has earned victories this season on 1-mile and 1.5-mile ovals (Dover and Charlotte), two top-five and three top-10 finishes in five road-course races and has yet to finish worse than 18th on a superspeedway so far this season.

He'll see each of those types of tracks in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, which is a good thing for him, crew chief Mike Bumgarner and the rest of the No. 8 team at JR Motorsports. The opener of the seven-race playoffs is at Texas Motor Speedway, so that's a plus.

"JRM as a whole, not just the No. 8 team, we have good speed on the 1.5-mile tracks that we've kind of struggled with in the past," Bumgarner said. "Going into Texas, we had a respectable race last time with a seventh-place finish, got spun out leading, but all of our cars had plenty of speed."

Speed is one thing, but the nature of the revamped oval means there's a premium on handling.

"Going back there, the speed factor is not really anything to worry about," Bumgarner said. "It's just going to be about execution and not making mistakes all day. It's a tough place to pass. It's kind of one-groove and you have to set yourself up for passes. It will be a track-position game."

The Round of 12 sets up as a test from start to finish. Texas kicks it off, with a visit to Talladega Superspeedway as the second race and the cutoff for the Round of 8 at the Roval in Charlotte. Berry enters the Round of 12 as the fifth seed, 17 points up on the eighth and final transfer spot to the Round of 8.

"This first round is probably as tough as any round we'll have just because of the speedway race (Talladega) and the Roval," Bumgarner said. "If you look at average finishes for us in terms of road courses and speedway races, we're mid-range on average, so to be able to advance, I feel like we need a little bit more, be a little bit better. It's really about just not making mistakes."

Berry is clear about what he needs to do in his first attempt at the playoffs as one of the 12 drivers vying for the championship.

"It's going to be about staying out of trouble," the Tennessee native said. "Statistically, the average finish that it would take to advance on points is eighth or ninth, so you can be a little more conservative in the first round and try to limit your mistakes and advance to the Round of 8.

"You have to as a group look at it a little differently, knowing that each round is only three races and each round is going to be different. Ultimately, you prepare the same each and every week no matter what, but you have to prepare like you have all year and keep doing the same thing and hopefully everything goes in your favor."

The Round of 8 shapes up better for Berry, Bumgarner and the No. 8 team, since the opener is at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Last year, filling in for an injured Michael Annett, Berry drove to victory for Bumgarner and led the first 1-2-3 finish in team history.

"Winning that race last year was a huge confidence booster for all of us and it was in the playoffs, when everybody is bringing their best," Berry said. "We've most definitely proven over the last couple of years that we can win really at any time. You have to go into the Round of 8 planning on having to win to advance. We don't have the points cushion, we're kind of right on the edge, and we could potentially point our way through, but really, you have to look at that round like you have to win. There are three really good tracks for us in that round."

The late summer stretch leading to the playoffs was somewhat difficult for Berry, Bumgarner and the No. 8 team, which will have Open Joist/U.S. LUMBER on the car this weekend at Texas. Despite the ups and downs, Bumgarner feels good about the opening trio of races.

"You would like to have a string of top fives or a couple of more wins going into the playoffs, but as far as speed goes, we and our teammates have had that," Bumgarner offered. "We feel like if we need to lean on our teammates, we can. We've shown plenty of times this year that we've had good speed."

That speed showed out at Charlotte in May, when Berry went toe-to-toe with teammate Justin Allgaier on the way to a solid victory—the first for JRM at the hometown speedway. The Roval race, the cutoff for the first round, is one Berry is looking forward to, especially after the win in May.

"I wish I could have been there to experience the Roval last year, and it's going to be a challenge, no doubt," Berry said of the race on the road-course layout inside CMS. "I've never experienced that, and it's going to be different going back to Charlotte given how well the oval race went in May. We just have to try and continue what we've been doing on road courses, which is get better each and every time. The last two, Indianapolis and Watkins Glen, were good races for us. We know what our expectations need to be—survive, grab some stage points if we can, and mostly just finish in the top 10. That's realistic for us and if we can do that, we'll move on through the playoffs."

As for being a first-timer in the playoffs, Berry is excited to be in play to win a championship.

"It's going to be a great experience, and the playoffs are something we always look forward to all year," he said. "If we are able to make it to Phoenix…I was there last year and got to experience that environment…maybe you feel a little nerves there. Up until that, we know what we have to do to make it there, and it's just about performing at our potential and we can do some great things together."

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • October 1 04:00 PM ET
    Sparks 300Talladega Superspeedway
  • October 8 03:00 PM ET
    Drive for the Cure 250Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval
  • October 15 03:00 PM ET
    Alsco Uniforms 302Las Vegas Motor Speedway
  • October 22 04:30 PM ET
    Contender Boats 250Homestead-Miami Speedway
  • October 29 03:00 PM ET
    Dead On Tools 250Martinsville Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Andy’s Frozen Custard 300

Texas Motor Speedway | 9/24/2022
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Noah Gragson (P)21070
2AJ Allmendinger (P)2081-26
3Ty Gibbs (P)2080-27
4Austin Hill # (P)2064-43
5Josh Berry (P)2058-49
6Justin Allgaier (P)2054-53
7Sam Mayer (P)2035-72