Josh Berry advanced to Sunday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina by winning the circuit’s All-Star Open earlier in the evening.
With 23 laps to go, Berry took the lead from Ty Gibbs, who also advanced to the All-Star Race by finishing second. In his No. 48 Chevrolet, Berry got a boost from Michael McDowell, who ran Gibbs low off Turn 1 and eventually onto the apron through Turns 3 and 4. That contact allowed Berry to sneak past in the 78th lap and take the lead for good.
“Man, I feel so relieved,” Berry said. “These guys deserve to be in this race so bad. Thank you so much to Hendrick Motorsports for believing in me and giving me this opportunity under the circumstances. Ally, everybody back at Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet. … Man, this is really cool.”
McDowell was upset with how Gibbs raced him earlier in the event, when Gibbs caused McDowell’s No. 34 Ford to collide with Justin Haley’s No. 31 Chevrolet with 43 laps remaining.
“I wasn’t going to ruin anybody else’s race, and I just wasn’t going to wave them by,” said McDowell, who finished 13th. “I was going to make (Gibbs) go around on the outside, and he still wanted to try to go through the bottom, which he was setting himself up. I should’ve ran him into the barrels and called it good.”
Gibbs saw where McDowell was coming from but wasn’t going to back down with a shot at the All-Star Race on the line.
“I can understand the No. 34’s frustration,” Gibbs said. “At Martinsville we were running 18th and they clobbered us and about wrecked us, so I think it’s honestly fair game. We are racing to make it in the All-Star Race, so I understand his frustration, but we got in, and that is all that matters.”
Rounding out the Top 10 behind Berry and Gibbs were Aric Almirola, Ryan Preece, AJ Allmendinger, JJ Yeley, Noah Gragson, Ty Dillon, Corey LaJoie and Josh Bilicki.
Named the fan vote winner, Gragson also advanced to the All-Star Race.
In the All-Star Race, Gibbs placed ninth, Berry finished 15th and Gragson came in 23rd.