Playoff Picture: Berry, Moyer After Victories, Title in Playoff Run

Ron Lemasters | 9/13/2023

News

Josh Berry enters the home stretch of his JRM career. He'd love nothing more than to end this chapter by bringing home a championship.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 13, 2023) -- Josh Berry and Taylor Moyer have a job to do over the next seven races: win a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. A good mix of tracks awaits the duo and the No. 8 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats & ATVs team, beginning Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Moyer, who led Sam Mayer last season in his inaugural appearance in the playoffs, said that the mix of tracks over the next seven races is good for his No. 8 team and his driver.

"We're very optimistic about the tracks on the playoff schedule," the Vermont native stated. "The way the schedule unrolled this year, we started to pick up some momentum around Pocono and the other oval tracks, and then we ran a bunch of superspeedways and road courses, the summer carousel of tracks.

"We're looking forward to Bristol, Texas, Vegas and Martinsville. I feel like those are all strong tracks for Josh and for us as a team."

Despite a strong performance week in and week out, a victory has eluded the No. 8 team all season. There were opportunities aplenty, to be sure, but none quite panned out at the end.

A case in point was at Pocono in June. Berry won the pole by a solid margin and dominated the early parts of the race. He was the leader on a green-white-checkered restart, but contact with another car off Turn One resulted in a cut tire, sending him into the wall at Turn 2 and to a 24th-place finish.

The Tennessee native had led 51 laps on the day and won both stages, but had not much else to show for the dominant performance.

There were other races—at Dover and Michigan, to name two—where Berry had excellent runs that could have resulted in victories but ended up as runner-up finishes. That sort of thing builds a certain toughness into a race team from the top down, Moyer said.

"I would say perseverance is our defining characteristic this season," Moyer said. "There are a lot of times that due to circumstances we finished better than we maybe should have, because of perseverance and toughness. You have to be tough.

"Racing, inherently, is tough. Even when teams have amazing seasons, you still lose more than you win. That is racing. Look at Noah (Gragson) last year. They had nine wins last season, and even if you win Phoenix and the championship for 10 wins, you still lost more than you won. You still have to be secure in losing and be able to keep working for the betterment of the car and the team."

Despite not winning, Berry, Moyer and the rest of the No. 8 team were among the favorites to win almost every week.

The tracks that Moyer is looking forward to the most in the seven-race playoff run include Bristol, Martinsville and Las Vegas, for very valid reasons.

For Bristol, the key is to race error-free, Moyer said.

"No mistakes," he said. "There's a little forgiveness at Bristol. I've seen teams make mistakes and come back and run OK. Ultimately, you don't want to make mistakes. You have to stay out of the trouble, for sure. Mistakes like being in the wrong lane on the restart and lose five spots, you can drive back from that. A bad pit stop you can overcome. You have to keep the fenders on it and the toe in it and keep it pointed straight. In general, the key to Bristol is keep your foot on the gas and adapt as the traction compound changes."

Berry earned his first career NXS victory at Martinsville in 2021--with Moyer on the box--in nearly dominant fashion, and he's won twice at LVMS with JRM, both with the No. 8 team and the No. 1 team in 2021.

The spring race at Martinsville was a good one for Moyer and Berry, though they did not cross the finish line first.

"The way the racing is in this series, you can never be sure that you'll win on a track that favors you," Moyer said. "At Martinsville in the spring, we had a really good car and had a lug nut jump in between the brake caliper and the rim and shear the valve stem off. It just so happened to catch the caution right and it wasn't for us, which let us come in and change the tire and start at the back. We drove all the way back up to fourth.

"We expect to run well at Martinsville and Las Vegas and give it our best shot. We expect to run well every week. We're optimistic about all the tracks coming up and everyone on the team feels like we can win every race."

Winning every race means beating your top competitors, and that includes JRM teammates Mayer and Justin Allgaier. There are others, to be sure.

"You have to go beat the 20 (John Hunter Nemechek) and the 21 (Austin Hill)," Moyer stated bluntly. "The field is pretty even at the top. The 20 has won the most, the 21 runs consistently well even when they're having bad days and to an extent, the 00 (Cole Custer) is not quite on that level but they have run consistently well all season."

As has been the rule since the playoff era began, there are interesting challenges in each round. The cutoff for moving to the next round will occur this season at the Charlotte Roval for the Round of 8 and at Martinsville for the Championship 4.

"The Roval will be the toughest," Moyer remarked. "It's a cut race, and NASCAR makes it that way for drama. It's also sometimes a race, like last year, that we had to go with Sam (Mayer), who is pretty good at road courses. We had to pretty much show up there knowing that you're going to have to call the race to maximize points and move on in the playoffs and that probably means you're giving up your shot at winning. That's the long and short of it."

There's a kicker for the Roval as well: stage breaks have been reinstated for the event, after none had been employed all season on road circuits.

"They're bringing back stages for the Roval this year, which means you can short-pit the final stage," Moyer explained. "That means if you want points, you go get the points, which means everyone that short-pits is going to have a better shot to win it.

"We had talked last year with Sam about how tough it is to know that you're throwing away the race. When we were done, I said to myself that I never want to be in that situation again. I hope we win this week and can just go for broke at the Roval. Points racing is not for everyone."

Moyer, Berry and the crew—car chief Danny Earnhardt Jr., mechanics Ritchie Snyder and Will Hartings, engineers Kevin Walter and Michael Toner and truck driver Chris Waddell make up the No. 8 squad that begins the playoffs with a mission.

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • April 20 04:00 PM ET
    Ag-Pro 300Talladega Superspeedway
  • April 27 01:30 PM ET
    A-GAME 200Dover International Speedway
  • May 11 01:30 PM ET
    NXS Spring Race at DarlingtonDarlington Raceway
  • May 25 01:00 PM ET
    NXS Spring Race at CharlotteCharlotte Motor Speedway
  • June 1 04:30 PM ET
    Pacific Office Automation 147Portland International Raceway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Dead On Tools 250

Martinsville Speedway | 10/28/2023
Results are not available.