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Jim Utter

Josh Berry returns to Hendrick Cup ride 'one step at a time'

Berry, who competes fulltime in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, most recently drove Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet on oval tracks this season during his recovery from a fractured tibia in his left leg suffered in a snowboarding accident.

Berry, 32, returns to double duty this weekend at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway, driving Alex Bowman’s No. 48 Hendrick Chevrolet in Sunday’s Cup race. Berry will fill-in for Bowman, who expects to miss three to four races while recovering from a fractured vertebra suffered earlier this week in a sprint car race.

In his five races as Elliott’s substitute, Berry earned a career-best runner-up finish at Richmond (Va.) Raceway and a top-10 at Phoenix. During his stint he became the 26th different driver to score a top-five finish with HMS.

"Everyone on the No. 48 team is wishing Alex a speedy recovery and we hope to have him back as soon as he is healthy. With Josh this weekend, we are fortunate enough to have had him in the No. 9 car recently, so we kind of know what driver comfort items we needed so we were able to get him in here and get him fit,” said Blake Harris, Bowman’s – and now Berry’s crew chief.

“We also got a simulator session in with him, so as far as preparation for this weekend goes, I feel like we are in as good of shape as we can be considering the time crunch we are in to get the car to Dover.”

Berry has two starts at Dover in the Xfinity Series, notching one win (in 2022) and a runner-up finish (in 2021) in those races. He led a combined 103 laps in those appearances. He also has a second-place finish at Dover in the ARCA East Series.

“I don’t think we could go to a track that is better suited for a ‘plug-and-play’ guy,” Harris said. “Our approach this weekend is just to take it one step at a time, no mistakes, and get Josh comfortable enough to get the No. 48 in contention.”

Hendrick’s No. 48 team has a history of success at Dover. Between Bowman and former driver Jimmie Johnson, the No. 48 has a combined 40 starts with a series-best 12 wins, 20 top-five and 29 top-10 finishes and an average finish of 9.33.

In fact, the team has finished 10th or better in its last five Dover starts. In its last 11 starts, the No. 48 has finished in the top-10 nine times, including two wins.

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