With as much as Dale Jr. and the fans rallied behind Josh Berry this past season, you would think the news of him going full-time would’ve come sooner. It seems that Jr. and his team had a little more difficult time finding full-time funding for Berry than was expected, but it was announced yesterday that the 31-year old will indeed be going full-time Xfinity racing in 2022.
This past season had a lot of ups and downs for Berry after Dale Jr. spent a good chunk of JR Motorsports resources into funding Berry’s career through late models and now Xfinity. Thankfully, a win at Martinsville helped validate all of this support, and with a full season of practice and qualifying ahead of him, there’s no telling what Berry will be able to accomplish.
We have contenders like Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton being promoted to Cup, but they are replaced with the likes of Ty Gibbs and Sam Mayer. Both of these young drivers possess the ability to challenge for a championship and make Berry’s first season in Xfinity a difficult one. Ty Gibbs is going to come in and be the championship favorite and eat up a lot of wins.
After starting the year with some struggles, his win at Martinsville gave him the confidence to show off exactly what he’s capable of every week. In his 16 starts this season he has 1 win, 4 top fives, and 9 top tens. His average finish per race is 16.1, the low average mainly coming from the slow start I referenced. With practice and qualifying coming back and giving him more opportunity to get wheel time at tracks he is unfamiliar with, I think we will start to see some consistency out of him.
I could easily see him doubling those numbers next season with a full schedule, but I see improvement on the horizon. This was the first time he consistently got seat time in NASCAR, and he has been able to perform well at multiple different tracks since his Martinsville win. He even was able to wheel the Jordan Anderson Racing car to 2 top ten finishes in 3 starts.
What are realistic expectations for Josh Berry in 2022?
Berry has the potential to lead the way for JRM because while Mayer is talented, he will more than likely take a season to reach his full potential. It’s unclear who is leaving JRM to make room for Berry and Mayer, but Berry’s limited experience this season tells me he has the potential to outrun any of the names associated with the team.
Top Fives: 10
Top Tens: 21
Average Finish: 11.5
Standings finish: 5th
My expectations are tempered because I still believe Berry has some growing to do, and it’s unknown how much upside he has. He’s performed well so far, but does he have the ability to be better than this? With his age, it remains to be seen.
I believe he could blow these projections out of the water and possibly go on to contend for the championship, but until Ty Gibbs starts slowing down, I’m not ready to say anyone can compete with him.
Josh Berry’s 2022 will have ups and downs with the ups being more frequent. He’s going to show that he belongs with the level of talent in Xfinity, but not necessarily on the Cup level yet. I think that if he’s lucky enough to keep his ride into 2023, that is when he’ll finally get a handle on this level of competition and might even be considered a championship favorite.