LAS VEGAS — Josh Berry became the first driver to take a spot in the Xfinity Series championship race, leading a 1-2-3 finish for JR Motorsports on Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Berry’s win in the opening race of the third round of the playoffs guarantees his Chevrolet will run for the Xfinity title next month in the finale at Phoenix. There are three spots still open with races at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Martinsville Speedway remaining to determine the championship four.
“We’ve had a tough couple weeks, couple months, but we knew that we could do this if we were at our best,” said Berry, who led 65 laps in winning for the third time this season but first since May at Charlotte.
“I can’t even put into words what this means. When we sat down at the beginning of this year, we knew this was going to be an opportunity for me. My goal is to make the championship four. I think if you do that, it’s a successful year, and I can’t believe we came here, locked ourselves in.”
It was the 499th victory for Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series.
Noah Gragson finished second at his home track and Justin Allgaier was third, but the JRM teammates briefly exchanged words on pit road after the race. Allgaier actually bumped into the back of Gragson’s car on pit road, but Gragson later said it was because Allgaier had lost his brakes.
AJ Allmendinger, winner of the last two Xfinity Series races, the regular-season champion and pole-sitter at Las Vegas, had to make a late pit stop for two loose wheels. It dropped Allmendinger two laps off the pace, he finished 22nd and is now below the cutline to advance into the championship finale.
“It’s just the way it goes. Everybody is trying hard,” Allmendinger said. “We win and lose as a team, it’s frustrating, so we’ve just got to move on. We’ve got to go with the mindset to just go out and win.”
Hailie Deegan finished 13th and on the lead lap in her Xfinity Series debut.
“It went pretty smooth. Just clean and nice,” said Deegan. “I was able to figure out what worked for me. It was wild just experiencing the whole thing.”