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Josh Berry and JR Motorsports prepared to solve Martinsville puzzle

Brett Moist | NKP

Josh Berry sort of has a love-hate relationship with Martinsville Speedway.

On one hand, the JR Motorsports veteran is entirely aware of what it would mean to win the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 and loves every chance he gets to add a grandfather clock to his resume. On the other hand, he’s felt a lot of hate leaving the historic half-mile, finishing no better than 13th over his seven attempts in the Late Model Stock classic.

He’s had competitive cars, but everything that could go wrong, often has over the past decade.

“I’ve been thinking about all of the situations that I’ve been put in here,” Berry said. “I think we have lacked speed here, as we’ve been up front, but we’ve just been a little bit off to where we’ve just kind of been stuck in the middle of the pack. My track record for finishing the race has been poor, which is very unusual for me. This race has been tough on me, but every year is a new year, and this year we’ve put a lot of effort into it, so I think we’re in a good position to capitalize on the momentum we have.”

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It’s puzzling because Berry has outdueled the best Late Model Stock drivers all across the Carolinas and Virginias, winning track championships at Motor Mile and Hickory before adding a CARS Tour championship last season.

Defeating the likes of Philip Morris, Lee Pulliam, Peyton Sellers and Tommy Lemons hasn’t been a problem for the 27-year-old.

Doing it on the biggest stage has been.

In his first year attempting the race with JR Motorsports in 2012, Berry finished 33rd after getting involved in a Lap 89 crash. Berry missed the race entirely the very next year, failing to make it out of the heat race system.

He showed top-10 speed over the past three years, but either failed to finish or just finished outside of the top-10.

Uncharacteristic, indeed.

Despite the track championship, touring championships and 51 career Late Model victories, Berry knows that crossing the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 of his ‘to-win’ list is what separates the all-time greats from the elite.

“With what we do as a company, this is the last race I have to win,” Berry said. “We don’t race for national championships and we don’t run a lot of the other shows out there, but every year we have cars here, and I feel like it’ll stay that way for a long time. Winning this race is all I have left to do, and it would really mean a whole lot to finally be able to do that.”

That’s especially true given who he races for, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“I saw how excited he was when he won here, how they celebrated,” Berry said. “That’s something we want to do, something we want to bring back to the shop.”

The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is the most prestigious and richest-paying Late Model Stock Car race of the season. The main event is 200 laps, pays $25,000 to win and will air on FansChoice.TV on Saturday night.

Green flag is schduled for 8 p.m.

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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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