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Monday November 28th, 2022 6:29AM

Berry punches title ticket with Las Vegas Xfinity victory

By Holly Cain-NASCAR Wire Service
  Contact Editor

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Josh Berry’s resume would indicate he’s a top-shelf short track racer, but the JR Motorsports driver may need to expand that profile.

Berry led a commanding 65 laps en route to the win in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday – his second victory in the last three races on the high-banked 1.5-miler.

Berry took the lead from A.J. Allmendinger with 34 laps remaining, with the pair racing hard side-by-side at the front of the field on a late race restart. Berry even got shoved into the outside wall before recovering and moving into the lead for his fifth career win.

Noah Gragson – who led a race best 87 laps and earned his season-leading 14th stage win – finished second, 1.125-seconds behind Berry. Justin Allgaier was third, solidifying a JR Motorsports 1-2-3 podium-sweeping effort.

The win is hugely significant, earning Berry the automatic position in the Championship 4 in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway on Novemver 5 – his first opportunity to race for the season title.

“I think I hit the wall like 12 times,” Berry told his team on the radio during the cool-down lap.

When the Hendersonville, Tennessee native ultimately climbed out of his Chevy at the finish line, he took time to remove his helmet – standing alongside his car and soaking in the importance of the day and the championship implications – far removed from his job as a bank teller years ago.

“I was a little bit tight off (turn) 4 the whole time, and (Allmendinger) left me a lane but nothing extra, but I wasn’t letting off,” said Berry, who hadn’t led a lap in the last six races. “That was for a trip to Phoenix and I was willing to hit the wall or whatever. We’ve had a tough couple weeks or months, but we knew we could do this if we were at our best.

“Had a caution with 30 to go and was able to wrestle the lead away from those guys and build enough of a (points) gap to keep it. “I tell you, I’m just speechless.’’

Berry’s victory also capped a memorable afternoon for Chevrolet. It marked the manufacturer’s 500th all-time win in the series and it clinched a sixth consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series Manufacturer’s Championship.

Allmendinger – the regular-season champion had to pit under green flag conditions shortly after racing Berry up front for the lead – a pair of loose tires ultimately derailing his day. Allmendinger’s 22nd place finish in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet was the lowest among the eight current Playoff drivers.

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Ty Gibbs and former Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne completed the top five. Winston, Georgia’s Austin Hill, Sam Mayer, Daniel Hemric, Atlanta, Georgia’s Brandon Jones, and Anthony Alfredo rounded out the top 10.

Allmendinger was the only Playoff driver with a finish outside the top-10.

With Berry’s win and automatic berth into the Championship 4, Gragson now leads the standings by 19 points over Gibbs and 29-points ahead of Allgaier.

Hill (-15), Allmendinger (-16), Jones (-29), and Mayer (-36) head into the next round needing to make up points with two races remaining – at Homestead-Miami and Martinsville – to set the four driver championship lineup for Phoenix.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standout Hailie Deegan made her NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Las Vegas – earning a very respectable 13th place finish in her first race.

“I’m pretty excited right now, the guys gave me an amazing car,’’ Deegan said, noting that she would love the opportunity to race more in the Xfinity Series should a sponsor step up for funding.

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Las Vegas, NV
Alsco Uniforms 302 – October 15, 2022

1. (12) Josh Berry (P), Chevrolet, 201.
2. (4) Noah Gragson (P), Chevrolet, 201.
3. (10) Justin Allgaier (P), Chevrolet, 201.
4. (3) Ty Gibbs (P), Toyota, 201.
5. (2) Trevor Bayne, Toyota, 201.
6. (8) Austin Hill # (P), Chevrolet, 201.
7. (5) Sam Mayer (P), Chevrolet, 201.
8. (6) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 201.
9. (7) Brandon Jones (P), Toyota, 201.
10. (21) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 201.
11. (15) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 201.
12. (22) Nicholas Sanchez, Chevrolet, 201.
13. (20) Hailie Deegan(i), Ford, 201.
14. (26) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 201.
15. (14) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 201.
16. (11) John Hunter Nemechek(i), Toyota, 200.
17. (16) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 200.
18. (36) Riley Herbst, Ford, 200.
19. (23) Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 200.
20. (18) Rajah Caruth(i), Chevrolet, 200.
21. (27) Parker Retzlaff, Chevrolet, 199.
22. (1) A.J. Allmendinger (P), Chevrolet, 199.
23. (17) Stefan Parsons(i), Chevrolet, 198.
24. (31) Kris Wright(i), Chevrolet, 197.
25. (25) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 197.
26. (38) Kyle Sieg #, Ford, 197.
27. (32) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Toyota, 197.
28. (35) Ryan Vargas, Chevrolet, 197.
29. (29) Mason Massey, Chevrolet, 196.
30. (34) C.J. McLaughlin, Ford, 196.
31. (37) David Starr, Ford, 196.
32. (30) Matt Jaskol(i), Toyota, 195.
33. (24) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 195.
34. (28) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 195.
35. (33) Matt Mills(i), Chevrolet, 195.
36. (19) J.J. Yeley, Toyota, Engine, 82.
37. (9) Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, Engine, 52.
38. (13) Ryan Sieg, Ford, Steering, 32.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 145.613 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 4 Mins, 14 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.125 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 3 for 15 laps.

Lead Changes: 14 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: A. Allmendinger (P) 1-6;N. Gragson (P) 7-23;T. Gibbs (P) 24-51;N. Gragson (P) 52-93;A. Hill # (P) 94-95;B. Jones (P) 96-100;J. Berry (P) 101-131;N. Gragson (P) 132-143;T. Gibbs (P) 144-145;N. Sanchez 146;K. Weatherman 147;N. Gragson (P) 148-163;L. Cassill 164-166;A. Allmendinger (P) 167;J. Berry (P) 168-201.

Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) Noah Gragson (P) 4 times for 87 laps; Josh Berry (P) 2 times for 65 laps; Ty Gibbs (P) 2 times for 30 laps; AJ Allmendinger (P) 2 times for 7 laps; Brandon Jones (P) 1 time for 5 laps; Landon Cassill 1 time for 3 laps; Austin Hill # (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Kyle Weatherman 1 time for 1 lap; Nicholas Sanchez 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 54,21,9,7,19,1,16,26,8,11

Stage #2 Top Ten: 9,54,19,21,7,8,1,11,18,16

Playoff Standings: 1. Josh Berry* – 3069 (3 Wins); 2. Noah Gragson – 3109 (7 Wins); 3. Ty Gibbs – 3090 (5 Wins); 4. Justin Allgaier – 3080 (3 Wins); 5. Austin Hill – 3065 (2 Wins); 6. A.J. Allmendinger – 3064 (5 Wins); 7. Brandon Jones – 3053 (1 Win); 8. Sam Mayer – 3044.

*Locked into the Championship Round

(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (P) Playoff driver

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