Berry wins his way into the Xfinity Championship 4 with a victory in Las Vegas

AJ Allmendinger leads the field at the start of Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Alsco Uniforms 302 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Trevor Bayne (18), Ty Gibbs (54), Noah Gragson (9), and Sam Mayer follow. Photo by Elliott Stern

Elliott Stern, Sports Editor

LAS VEGAS – A win and you’re in.

That’s what Josh Berry did Saturday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Berry led a 1-2-3 finish for JR Motorsports, becoming the first driver in the Xfinity playoff Round of 8 to win his way into the Championship 4, taking the checkered flag in the 5th annual Alsco Uniforms 302.

“I didn’t have a ton of speed early on but the car just got better as the race wore on,” said Berry.

Josh Berry crosses the finish line to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Alsco Uniforms 302 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo by Elliott Stern

Berry led 65 of the race’s 201 laps over the Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval to win for the second time in Las Vegas. Berry also won last year’s Fall race at the track.

He battled JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson throughout the race’s final stage, taking the lead for good on lap 169 and then holding off Gragson and teammate Justin Allgaier the rest of the way.

Gragson finished second and Allgaier third, followed by Ty Gibbs, Trevor Bayne, Austin Hill, Sam Mayer, Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, and Antony Alfredo.

It was also a historic day for Chevrolet.

Berry’s win was the 500th for the automaker in the Xfinity Series while also clinching the manufacturers’ season championship for Chevy.

It was an accident-free race, with just one caution called for an on-track incident.

No caution came out when Trevor Bayne went into a huge slide on the race’s third lap.

Bayne started the day second and was in third place when his car began its slide. Bayne did a masterful job of keeping the car off the wall, saving his day but dropping him back to 12th place.

Bayne battled his way back into the top 10, working his way back up to fifth place at the end.

On lap 162, Brandon Jones got loose and, like Bayne earlier, saved his car from crashing but it did bring out the yellow flag as Jones slid back to 10th place.

The final re-start gave Berry his chance to get up front.

“When we had that late caution, I was able to wrestle the lead and keep it,” said Berry.

Hailie Deegan crosses the finish line to finish 13th in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Alsco Uniforms 302 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 13th-place finish is the best ever for a woman in her first start in the Xfinity series. Photo by Elliott Stern

During that final caution, Landon Cassill stayed on track when the race leaders went to the pits.

But on older tires, he was quickly passed, getting in the way of Gragson, sending Gragson back to sixth and himself back to ninth.

“I was definitely frustrated,” said Gragson. “The 10 (Cassill) stayed out on older tires and it kind of hurt us. I was giving it everything I had at the end but just ran out of time.”

Berry and AJ Allmendinger banged into each other on the restart with Berry hitting the wall.

But he kept on going and took the lead just ahead of Allgaier.

Gragson was able to work his way past Allgaier with four laps to go but wasn’t able to catch Berry who beat him to the finish line by 1.125 seconds.

Allmendinger’s day was spoiled by a late tire issue.

With 25 laps to go, Allmendinger told his pit crew that he had a loose tire.

He went to the pits and it turned out to be two loose tires, both on the right side.

He had to use older tires as replacements and ended his day in 22nd place.

“From the top of the race I just couldn’t get a handle on it,” said Allmendinger, “We’ll rebound next week and be ready when we go to Homestead next week.”

Hailie Deegan, on the other hand, had a successful debut in the Xfinity series.

The 21-year-old from Temecula finished 13th, the highest finish for a woman making her Xfinity Series debut.

“I’m pretty excited right now,” said Deegan. “The guys gave me an amazing car. My goal was to finish in the top 15. Finishing 13th – I’m really happy with that.”

“When I started this year, our goal was to be in the Championship 4,” said Berry. “To be in this position is truly amazing.”

Josh Berry does the traditional winner’s burnout at the finish line after winning Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Alsco Uniforms 302 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo by Elliott Stern

NASCAR wraps up its Las Vegas weekend Sunday with the South Point 400 Cup race.

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