Berry thankful to be called up to sub for Elliott

Matt Thacker/Motorsport Images

Berry thankful to be called up to sub for Elliott


Berry thankful to be called up to sub for Elliott


Josh Berry is thankful he can take over the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the substitute driver for an injured Chase Elliott.

Berry, 32, was chosen as the replacement driver after Elliott suffered a snowboarding accident in Colorado that required surgery for a fractured tibia in his left leg. Hendrick Motorsports doesn’t know how long Elliott is sidelined but expects his recovery to be a few weeks.

A full-time driver in the Xfinity Series for Hendrick affiliate team JR Motorsports, Berry appreciates being thought of and getting the call. The Pennzoil 400 will be his third career start in the NASCAR Cup Series and the first time he’s driven the Next Gen car.

“Without a doubt, it’s going to be a great challenge for me,” Berry said Saturday morning. “But with a great challenge comes a great opportunity for me to learn and grow as a driver and work around a lot of really talented and smart people here at Hendrick Motorsports. We’re just taking it one lap at a time. One day at a time.

“We don’t really have any expectations at this point. We’re going to try to get through this practice and qualifying, and I’m going to race my Xfinity car, and then we’ll meet some more and talk about it and make a plan for tomorrow. It’s definitely a great honor to drive for Hendrick Motorsports, regardless of the situation. I’m going to try to do the best we can for these guys.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 team, said his first priority was making Berry safe and comfortable with the car’s interior. Gustafson and his team worked late into Friday night, getting their Chevrolet swapped over to accommodate their substitute.

“That transition is always a difficult thing,” Gustafson said. “With Chase, obviously, we’ve had years and years and years to refine the interior package. His seat, leg braces, headrest, etc. … and we had to do the best we can to get it into a suitable position for Josh, which I feel good about.”

Berry said he is going to try not to overthink the car. Next Gen is quite different from what Berry has been driving in the Xfinity Series, and he wants to take the weekend one lap at a time and compete all of them in Sunday’s race.

A busy Saturday for Berry is a part of his balancing act of wanting to show himself well in the Cup Series without losing focus on his primary job.

“It’s going to be a great challenge like I said before, but that comes with a lot of opportunity in there as well,” the Xfinity regular said. “We’re going to race. I don’t think we have a lot of expectations for how this is going to go. Obviously, my focus is on winning an Xfinity Series championship this year, but to get this opportunity to get some experience in a Cup car is good for me.

“Obviously, I want to be in the Cup Series one day, so you never know what could happen. We’re just trying to be realistic. As for this, I’ll be available for these guys whenever they need me and hopefully, I can do a good job for them.”