Xfinity Series: Josh Berry’s experience pays off at Martinsville

The NASCAR Xfinity Series raced at the Martinsville Speedway for just the second time since 2006, Sunday, and fans were treated to a first time series winner.

Though the result was hardly an upset.

Martinsville is perhaps the toughest short track in America, so it’s no surprise that Josh Berry was able to lead 95 of 250 laps on route to victory. Berry is one of the best late model race car drivers in the nation with championships in the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series and CARS Late Model Tour¬†under his belt.

While the Xfinity Series and K&N East (now ARCA Menards East) were skipping Martinsville, Berry was competing at the paperclip for Jr. Motorsports. He even won a 200-lap late model race in dominating fashion back in 2019.

That experience proved to be the difference-maker. Berry started the race, Friday, in 29th, but he needed just 78 laps to take the lead. The rain delay did little to dampen Berry’s effort, as he dominated the last 153 laps on Sunday, leading 85 laps including the final 29. Once Berry took the lead from Ty Gibbs on Lap 222 no one was able to challenge him.

Gragson and Hemric provide the late-race drama

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – APRIL 11: Daniel Hemric, driver of the #18 Poppy Bank Toyota, leads the field during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Cook Out 250 at Martinsville Speedway on April 11, 2021, in Martinsville, Virginia. Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images

While Berry ran away with the lead, all eyes were on Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric. Gragson followed Berry past Gibbs on Lap 222 to take second. Hemric had a much more eventful run to the front of the pack. He restarted several rows back on Lap 210, but he ticked off impressive laps times to cruise past everyone in front of him.

Until he reached Gragson.

The last time Gragson and Hemric were on a race track together, their day ended with a fight on pit road. Three weeks ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hemric took issue with how Gragson backed into the front of his car during a pitstop. The incident damaged Hemric’s car, but more importantly, it put the No. 18 crew in harm’s way. Hemric and Gragson had a heated conversation after the race which led to both drivers throwing punches.

When Hemric caught Gragson late in the race, you knew which battle you needed to watch. Physical racing is almost required at Martinsville, and Hemric wasn’t shy about using his bumper. Hemric did everything short of dumping Gragson to try to get past the No. 9, but he couldn’t develop enough of a run to take second.

 Dash 4 Cash results

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – APRIL 11: Noah Gragson, driver of the #9 Bsas Pro Shops/True Timber/BRCC Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Cook Out 250 at Martinsville Speedway on April 11, 2021, in Martinsville, Virginia. Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images

Gragson wasn’t able to battle his JRM teammate for the win, but he did take home $100,000. Gragson finished well ahead of his rivals in the Dash 4 Cash series. Harrison Burton finished seventh, Justin Allgier finished ninth, and AJ Almendinger finished outside the top-10 in 13th.

The Dash 4 Cash continues in two weeks at Talladega Superspeedway. Noah Gragson has another chance at $100,000. This time, he’ll compete against Hemric, Brandon Jones and Austin Cindric. Darlington Raceway (May 8) and Dover International Speedway make up the back-half of the Dash 4 Cash series.

TOP IMAGE: James Gilbert/Getty Images