(photo courtesy jr motorsports)
Will Josh Berry look back on his debut start at Richmond in the JR Motorsports flagship No. 88 Chevy as the start of somethig big to come? Or will he look back at that night with the nagging sense of what could have been?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. called putting Berry – a 24-year-old who competes for JR Motorsports’ Late Model team – a Hail Mary. Dale Jr. further stated that it was a chance to put him in a good car, and hope Berry could use his short-track skills at Richmond International Raceway to record a good finish and attract sponsor attention.
Berry, a two-time track champion at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway, impressed many with a seventh-place in what is scheduled to be his only Xfinity start of the season. His run included a pass for position of Kyle Busch, Berry admits he thought at the time “Holy cow, I just passed Kyle Busch’’, and a surge through the field that, had he not been blocked in his pit stall on his final stop, he might have challenged for the lead!
But it’s what comes next that could define Berry’s career and if he’s to run more races in the Xfinity Series or if he remains at the Late Model level.
“I’m ready to race Josh every week,’’ Earnhardt said. “We’ve just got to find a partner.’’
While some will loudly cry FOUL! Unfortunately, this is the flaw that is built into auto racing – money supersedes talent in many cases. It’s a reality of the racing business, it is always a combination of cubic inches and cubic dollars! Earlier this week, car owner Rick Hendrick noted how he put Jeff Gordon in a Sprint Cup car before he had sponsorship for it in 1992. Asked if he would do it now, Hendrick quickly said no. These days the costs are too great for such a gamble.
JR Motorsports is no different. It has to be responsible for its employees. Earnhardt says they want to run three teams next year, and could possibly run four but that’s all dependent on sponsorship.
The quest for sponsorship is a reason why Elliott Sadler reportedly will join the organization next year, bringing along his sponsor. It’s also why there’s been no announcement if Regan Smith will return to JRM, even though Earnhardt says he’d like Smith back. JR Motorsports also would like to run Ben Rhodes, (check out the interview that I conducted with this young man) a promising 18-year-old who won the K&N Pro Series East title a year ago, in more races.
For this business, NASCAR racing, money most definitely matters!
“You never know who might have been watching the race,’’ said Earnhardt, after celebrating Chase Elliott‘s win for the organization. “You never know who might want to be involved in a company like JR Motorsports or even not knowing there’s an opportunity. There’s a lot of people out there that may assume we’re full and we’ve got all the sponsors and partners we need. Someone might see that there’s an opportunity and call us up and show some interest in Josh and further his career.’’
There is no doubt that Josh Berry did everything that he could do to draw attention to his racing abilities at Richmond. He definitely showed that he could hang with the big dogs in the XFINITY Series. Now it is up to someone, or some company, to get behind this young man with some sponsorship dollars to further allow Berry to showcase his racing skills.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!