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A Conversation with Josh Berry and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Short Track Scene participated in a media tour on Thursday for NASCAR Division I Weekly Series national champion Josh Berry and car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Berry’s time was limited to one question due to a scheduled appearance with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio but Earnhardt stuck around for over 10 minutes to discuss the health of short track racing, NASCAR’s responsibility to aid that growth and if there should be a national tour for Super Late Models.

The complete video can be watched below but a snippet of quotes can be viewed below it.

BERRY ON BECOMING AN AMBASSADOR FOR SHORT TRACK RACING

“I think it’s something that I’m learning as I go, more and more, especially this week: absorbing and doing all these interviews and the sit-down with Dale on our success together.

“It’s really starting to hit me what we’ve done. I love short track racing and I love short track racing. I truly have loved my time doing it. As I’ve gotten older, it’s taken some getting used to being the top guy, as everyone keeps saying. It’s been so much fun. I’m so thankful to have the sponsors that we do and to race the way we do.”

DALE JR. ON CREATING MORE SHORT TRACK LIFERS

“There’s a lot of things that need to happen and people need to be honest with themselves about what made (Mike Eddy, Dick Trickle and Jody Ridley) so memorable. First off, we all, NASCAR, our network partners, need to be aware of the responsibility to recognize and celebrate the weekly series success stories.

“And the K&N Series, the ARCA Series is not grassroots. I’m sorry. So, I feel like there’s a responsibility to celebrate what’s happening at these shorter tracks all across the country.

“There’s been some efforts by NBC to do that, and I can say that because I’ve seen it. When I was racing in the Weekly Series in the 90s, there was the red and white paint, and there was a bridge, connection and tie, to the other NASCAR series through a relationship with Winston and support from NASCAR. There was a lifeline or tether that has somewhat been broken and we need to establish that. And that’s just one of the things that needs to be done to create name recognition, which in returns opens up opportunities when rides become available.”

“Denny Hamlin was plucked from the late model ranks by Joe Gibbs and that’s still very possible … If there’s a Josh Berry out there winning 26 races a year in a regional series, I don’t know him. We as an industry need to do a better job to elevate that driver. Who is the next Denny Hamlin and where is he at? That’s the disconnect right now.”

DOES NASCAR HAVE INTERNAL LEADERSHIP THAT SUPPORTS SHORT TRACK?

“I believe there are people in NASCAR in the office that have worked in that weekly series, Brandon Thompason and a few other guys, that know what that level means. They’ve lived it. And that person will eventually get to a level in the industry to bridge that gap and tether us back together to our grassroots tracks. There definitely needs to be more back and forth, a stronger bond between the sanctioning body and the competitors at these race tracks across the country. I think those people are there in NASCAR to get us there.”

SHOULD NASCAR CREATE A SHORT TRACK TOURING SERIES LIKE ALL PRO?

“I don’t know about that. I really don’t. I don’t know. My focus always goes back to the individual race tracks — the Florence Speedways, the South Bostons, the I-95s, Nashville Fairgrounds, and all these little tracks I know by names and the ones across the track that I don’t know, and supporting the tracks themselves, their local car counts and what they mean to the community, and the drivers and competitors who race there … elevating the national championship and the competitors who race for that title. Obviously, Josh is going to get a lot of recognition for this, this year. Beyond that, I think we can do a lot to celebrate who all was part of that process, and who all are the drivers celebrating for the national championship …

“I don’t know if we need a touring series for Late Models or Super Late Models that already exist and I don’t know that they need to be NASCAR operated. I do think we need to make sure these tracks are healthy and NASCAR can play a big part in that by shining the spotlight on them and the tracks then shining the spotlight on their competitors.”

READ MORE: Super Late Model Tours Band Together for Possible National Championship

IS DALE INTERESTED IN WATCHING A SUPER LATE MODEL TOUR?

“I don’t see how that could be a bad thing. Anything that brings a little more attention to those drivers, the series. The CARS Tour is a great series and we’ve been a part of that for years and hope to continue our participation in the CARS Tour in the future.

“I would love to see CARS Tour race at more race tracks. I would love the CARS Tour to go to Florida to New Smyrna (during Speedweeks) or find a way to blow up Speedweeks and include a Late Model stock portion of the Snowball Derby. I don’t know. There are a lot of things that would be cool, but I don’t see where that would be a bad thing.”

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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