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It wasn't terribly long ago that Josh Berry had more or less accepted the way his racing career was going to go.

As he neared his 30th birthday, Berry had thought that his lot in life was to be a career short track racer, and that competing in late models on the short tracks of the southeast would be as far as he went. In doing that, the longtime JR Motorsports employee could have a successful and respectable career, but likely never truly get a chance to measure himself against the best of the best in NASCAR.

But after winning the 2020 NASCAR Weekly Series championship, the Hendersonville, Tenn. native's fate would change when he was given the opportunity to run a partial Xfinity Series schedule for JR Motorsports in 2021. Berry would win twice, earning the driver's seat of the No. 8 Chevrolet on a full-time basis in 2022 and 2023.

Five career wins and a spot in last year's Xfinity Championship 4 later, Berry's perseverance and diligence was already finally bearing fruit at the start of 2023 when his career trajectory would be altered again. When Chase Elliott was sidelined early in the season after being injured in a snowboarding accident, Berry was tabbed by Hendrick Motorsports to fill in for Elliott. And when Alex Bowman was sidelined due to a back injury suffered in a sprint car crash, Hendrick again summoned Berry to help out.

In eight starts, Berry would earn three top 10 finishes, a best finish of second at Richmond, and also qualified for this year's All-Star Race by winning the All-Star Open at North Wilkesboro.

"Obviously it was an unexpected event to have to go through before the season started, but overall it was a great experience for me. I'm really thankful that they gave me that call," Berry told CBS Sports. "Obviously it's really tough circumstances with both of those guys getting injured like that, but I'm really thankful that I had the opportunity. I think it was a great opportunity for me to grow as a driver and see how a high-level Cup team operates and the things that I can learn from them going forward.

"All in all, it wasn't perfect, but it was successful and I feel like that we managed everything well."

Managing circumstances was indeed a large part of Berry's experience at Hendrick. Only two races into filling in for Elliott, crew chief Alan Gustafson would be suspended as part of sweeping penalties against Hendrick for using illegal air ducts at Phoenix, which forced Berry to have to adapt to working with interim crew chief Tom Gray. Then, filling in for Bowman meant working with a completely different crew on the No. 48 team led by Blake Harris.

That level of disarray may have thrown off a younger driver trying to capitalize on their opportunity to drive some of the best cars in Cup. But that's where Berry is quite different. As opposed to others who are surrounded by the best equipment and teams possible by their early twenties and have experienced little adversity, Berry already had many years of quality experience racing at a high level on short tracks by the time he was 30, which helped him thrive even as he had to adapt on the fly.

"Years of racing led me up to that moment to be able to somewhat capitalize on it when I got in a competitive Cup car," Berry said. "The experience that I had leading up to that moment, I think, definitely helped prepare me for it. The moment was not too big, I was prepared for that.

"And I think ultimately, that led to some of the glimpses of success that we had relatively with no experience in the Next Gen at all prior to that. I was really proud of that."

Those glimpses of success did not go unnoticed in the rest of the garage area. And soon, they may end up bringing Berry's career to heights that seemed out of reach only a few short years ago.

The Athletic has reported that Stewart-Haas Racing is working on finalizing a contract with Berry, who would move to the Cup Series full-time beginning in 2024 as the replacement for the retiring Kevin Harvick. Berry did not acknowledge the reports linking him to a full-time Cup ride next season, and a representative for Berry and JR Motorsports declined comment on The Athletic's report for this story.

However, Berry left little doubt as to what he hopes both this season and his immediate racing future hold.

"It was no secret to myself and my team at JR Motorsports that our goal this year was to perform at a level that could potentially put me in the Cup Series in 2024," Berry said. "Circumstances changed early in the season to give me an opportunity in the Cup Series that was unexpected. Really, the goal hasn't changed too much.

"I think for us now, that was a great experience, and looking forward I want to compete and hopefully win the Xfinity Series championship this year and then have my eye on being in the Cup Series next year."