Saturday's motor sports: Berry leads dominant JR Motorsports effort with Xfinity victory

Dan Gelston
Associated Press

Dover, Del. — Josh Berry led a dominant outing for JR Motorsports at Dover Motor Speedway and raced to his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season on Saturday.

Berry had tears in his eyes and hoisted his daughter in the air after he took the checkered flag in the No. 8 Chevrolet for his third career Xfinity win in 39 starts. Berry finished second in last year’s Dover race.

Chris Buescher smiles after winning the pole in NASCAR Cup Series auto race practice qualifying at Dover International Speedway.

“We were there when it counted, man,” Berry said.

JR Motorsports put four drivers in the top five on the one-mile concrete track. Justin Allgaier was second, Noah Gragson was fourth and 18-year-old Sam Mayer was fifth. Ty Gibbs interrupted the JR Motorsports run with a third-place finish. Allgaier has nine consecutive top-10 finishes at Dover, including two wins. He led a race-high 67 laps.

“It’s big for our company,” Gragson said. “Four cars in the top five is really big for us.”

Gragson also won his fifth career $100,000 bonus as the highest-finishing eligible driver in the Xfinity-sponsored program. Gragson, who won last week’s triple overtime race at Talladega, said he’d divide his share with his race team.

“I feel like Happy Gilmore with these things,” Gragson said, holding the oversized check.

Team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. kept close watch on his drivers romping through the field.

“Being a @XfinityRacing owner is never dull,” he tweeted.

And Earnhardt was ready to share the credit.

“Lots of happy @JRMotorsports employees the past few weeks. Also appreciate @TeamHendrick for all their support. Pit crews, engines, multiple layers of resources from Mr H and his organization help us win,” Earnhardt tweeted.

They’ll certainly be abuzz in the shop this week at JR Motorsports: Gragson joked part of his bonus usually goes toward beer money. Then again, the track is just a short walk from the Dover casino.

“I’m taking over the casino. Putting all 100K on black,” he said.

He also joked he was going to steal Berry’s Monster trophy: “That thing’s so cool.”

Berry, who made his Cup debut at Dover last season, won twice in NASCAR’s second-tier series last season driving for Earnhardt.

“We thought after last year this would be a great opportunity for us,” he said. “We were able to deliver that today.”

Daniel Hemric finished a solid 11th driving with a broken bone in his left foot suffered last week in a wreck at Talladega.

Berry was the sixth straight different winner at Dover – and all of them raced for the Xfinity championship in the season finale. Berry led the final 55 of a rather uneventful 200 laps.

“I think all four of us are working really together. We had a lot of great speed,” Berry said.

Pole sitter Brandon Jones finished seventh. AJ Allmendinger, who finished sixth and has a top-10 finish in every race this season, leads the standings by 43 points over Gibbs.

“Not a lot of chaos out there, which is making my life a little easier this week,” Gibbs said.

Cup qualifying

Chris Buescher was the surprise pole winner at Dover, turning a lap of 160.149 mph to win his first career top spot.

The RFK Racing driver will be joined on the front row by Denny Hamlin, ordered this week by NASCAR to begin sensitivity training after he posted an anti-Asian meme.

“Pretty cool of RFK to get our first pole,” Buescher said. “It’s a pretty cool start for us.”

Buescher also earned the first pole for RFK Racing in the No. 17 Ford. Brad Keselowski left Team Penske in November for an ownership stake in Jack Roush’s organization, forging a new partnership. Keselowski and Buescher opened strong for RFK Racing when they won the 150-mile qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway in February.

It’s been a bit of a rough ride over the past two months.

Keselowski was rocked last month with crushing penalties for illegal modifications made to his Ford and Buescher hasn’t finished better than 15th in his any of his last four races. Buescher has only one career win over 232 career Cup starts.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Buescher said. “We’re slowly and steadily building up through the season. It’s not the race. We have a lot of laps left to go. But a heck of a start.”

Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott for Hendrick Motorsports start third and fourth in Chevrolets. Ryan Blaney rounds out the top five for Sunday’s race on the mile concrete track.

Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 winner who drives a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, shrugged off a messy week to go 159.744 mph in the No. 11 Toyota and starts second. Hamlin posted an anti-Asian meme from the television comedy “Family Guy” that criticized Kyle Larson’s driving on the last lap at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend.

Hamlin deleted the tweet Monday night and apologized.

“I think if you historically look back to my performance to distraction, it correlates to a pretty good weekend,” Hamlin said. “I’d probably bet on us if I were you.”

IndyCar qualifying

Rinus VeeKay led an upset in IndyCar qualifying to position himself to race for the win at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama.

The Dutchman was the surprise pole-winner for Sunday’s race following a qualifying session that saw most of IndyCar’s top names fail to advance through the rounds.

The first round on Saturday bounced both Will Power, a two-time winner at Barber, and six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. The two are among the best active drivers in IndyCar, but both struggled around the picturesque permanent road course that is considered one of the most physical tracks on the circuit.

Told he was starting 19th, Power frowned; “That’s a terrible place for this track. Terrible.”

Power in 2012 won from ninth – the farthest starting spot for a winner in 11 previous events. The average starting spot is 3.2 for previous race winners.

That puts VeeKay in position for his second career victory.

“Confidence is high and this is a track where passing is not happening too much,” the 21-year-old said. “From here, we can have a great race and fight for a win, definitely.”

VeeKay turned a lap at 1 minute, 6.2507 seconds in the “Fast Six” round of qualifying to edge Pato O’Ward, last year’s pole-winner, for the top starting spot. It’s the second pole of his career, first since the road course at Indianapolis late in his 2020 rookie season.

The front row was a lockout for Chevrolet, which is 3 for 3 so far on the IndyCar season as Team Penske swept the first three races of the season. IndyCar has raced on a pair of street courses and an oval, so Barber is the first road course and first new terrain this year.

It’s a track that Penske drivers have dominated – Josef Newgarden leads all active drivers with three wins at Barber and goes into Sunday on a two-race winning streak. But like many other top names, he failed to make it into the “Fast Six.”

Newgarden was eliminated in the second round of qualifying and will start seventh.

Alex Palou, the reigning IndyCar champion and defending winner at Barber, qualified third for Chip Ganassi Racing. Scott McLaughlin was fourth and the only Team Penske driver to make the “Fast Six,” and was followed by Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport.

Felix Rosenqvist qualified sixth to join Arrow McLaren SP teammate O’Ward in the first three starting rows Sunday.