Josh Berry was working as a bank teller in Hendersonville and about ready to cash in his chips as a race car driver when Dale Earnhardt Jr. came to the rescue.
Berry, 30, was driving Legends cars at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and racing virtually on the iRacing circuit in 2008 when he ended up not only competing against, but often beating Earnhardt.
A friendship between Earnhardt and Berry came about from their simulated races, and the two started having conversations on the Internet.
“Dale asked me what I was doing, what I wanted to do, what my goals were in my life, with my career,” Berry said. “We just became friends.”
The relationship grew and led to Earnhardt adding Berry to his JR Motorsports team in 2010 to drive his late model stock car.
This season Earnhardt provided Berry with the opportunity to move up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and Berry responded by winning at Martinsville on April 11 and finishing second last week at Darlington Raceway.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” said Berry, a Hendersonville graduate who was attending Volunteer State Community College when he met Earnhardt. “Dale gave me an opportunity to test the late model at Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia. That went well and turned into a couple of races and then I moved to (Statesville) North Carolina.”
While they were still communicating on the Internet, Berry shared with Earnhardt that he wanted step up to racing late model stock cars at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, but that racing Legends had almost wiped him out financially.
“We had no funding and probably were going to have to quit racing, at least temporally,” Berry said.
Money is still an issue for Berry. His deal with JR Motorsports is only for the first 12 Xfinity races this season. The No. 8 car will be turned over to Sam Mayer when he turns 18 in late June.
Berry is hoping to secure a fulltime sponsor before then to continue to compete in the Xfinity Series. If not he will go back to driving and training late model stock car drivers for JR Motorsports.
Berry has been extremely successful as a late model driver. He has won 87 races on the many short tracks around the Statesville area.
Fortunately for Berry his last Xfinity race driving for Earnhardt will be the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on June 19.
“It’s going to be a little bit of a bitter-sweet feeling, but I am definitely looking forward to that race,” Berry said. “I’m sure I’ll have lots of family and friends there so it will be pretty cool.”
The other cool part of it will be that Earnhardt will be there to see him race.
Because of his schedule it’s often hit or miss when it comes to Earnhardt being able to attend Xfinity races. He will definitely be at this one, however, since the Ally 400 will be the first race of the season broadcast by NBC and Earnhardt is an NBC analyst.
Fox broadcasts the first half of the NASCAR Cup Series races.
Earnhardt will also be at Nashville Superspeedway for the Camping World Truck Series race on June 18 and, of course, the NASCAR Cup Series race on June 20.
Berry likes when Earnhardt is at his races because they have become such good friends. He also likes showing off for his boss.
“We have a really good relationship; we’ve been working together for a long time,” Berry said. “He’s always been a big supporter of me. Once he quit racing (fulltime in 2017) it allowed him to really pay more attention to what I was doing. That has allowed me to get some of the opportunities that I have here lately.”
Earnhardt and Berry’s relationship was bolstered by the passion they share for the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and their desire to see the NASCAR Cup Series return to the historic track.
“Dale’s intentions are pure; he loves the Nashville area, he loves that racetrack,” Berry said. “He wants there to be racing there very badly. He’s invested and he wants it to happen. We all want it to happen. All of us who grew up racing there want to see that place have success and continue to grow.”
DALE JR. WILL RACE:Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive in Xfinity Series race if NASCAR returns to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
Hillsboro’s Alia Logoleo has 10 RBIs for Clemson
Former Hillsboro softball star Alia Logoleo, now a redshirt freshman outfielder at Clemson, had 10 RBIs in a game last week at Syracuse.
That is the most RBIs by a Division I player against a Power-5 opponent since 2015.
Logoleo went 4-for-4 and hit three home runs, including a grand slam while helping Clemson to a 19-2 win.
On Tuesday Logoleo was named the D1 Softball national player of the week.
Lindsey Wilson wins title with help from Midstate players
The Lindsey Wilson football team, which won the NAIA football championship Monday, included a large group of players from Middle Tennessee.
The Blue Raiders capped an 11-0 season by beating Northwestern (Iowa) 45-13 in the championship game.
Some of the players from Middle Tennessee included defensive back Mark Pruitt (Oakland), wide receiver Joshua Lewis (Lavergne), defensive back Michael Leslie (Franklin County), quarterback Andrew Nixon (White House), quarterback Jonathan Lutz (McEwen), wide receiver Logan Collier (Mt. Juliet Christian Academy), quarterback Ethan Cash (Independence), quarterback Will McDonald (Livingston Academy), defensive back Ryan Wilson (Siegel), defensive back Darius Willis Jr. (Pearl-Cohn), linebacker Malachi Rogan (Station Camp), defensive back Marcelus Campbell (Marshall County), linebacker Darius Hylick (Mt. Juliet Christian Academy), linebacker Seth Phillips (Clarksville), offensive lineman Jalen WIlkerson (Shelbyville), offensive lineman Eli Cross (DeKalb County), offensive lineman Mason Griffith (Blackman), offensive lineman Benji Arnette (Oakland), offensive lineman Ronnie Kramer (Mt. Juliet), offensive lineman Lane Krips (Smyrna), wide receiver Michael Burdick (Spring Hill), wide receiver Quantae Hicks (Clarksville), wide receiver Logan Neufeld (White House), defensive lineman DeAngelo Barrios (Northeast), defensive lineman Aaron Gray (Nashville Christian), defensive lineman Ben Kalu (Blackman), defensive lineman David Hylick (Mt. Juliet Christian Academy), defensive lineman Therone Orr (HIllsboro),
Also, assistant coach Michael Thrower is from McMinnville and a former Warren County assistant.
Lipscomb’s Nathan Moran hired at Lee
Former Battle Ground Academy and Lipscomb basketball standout Nathan Moran has been hired as assistant coach at Lee University.
Moran, who scored 1,140 points at Lipscomb, spent last season as a graduate assistant at Lee.
“(Moran’s) playing and coaching experiences will be a great asset to our program,” said Lee coach Bubba Smith, who is a Hendersonville native. “Nathan has been a winner at every program he’s been a part of. This past season he contributed in every facet of our program.”
State House presents Eddie George with resolution
The Tennessee House of Representatives presented former Titans All-Pro running back Eddie George with a resolution recognizing his many accomplishments and his new position as Tennessee State’s football coach.
“Eddie George has proven himself to be a winner in every aspect of life, and we are certain that his winning ways will translate to the TSU football team and its future success both on and off the field,” the resolution read.
The resolution was drafted by Tennessee state Rep. Harold Love Jr.
Former Belmont AD gets lifetime achievement award
Former Belmont athletics director Mike Strickland received the 2021 Gary Cunningham Lifetime Achievement Division I-AAA Award from the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
Strickland served as Belmont’s athletics director for 20 years before his retirement in 2016.
He navigated Belmont’s move from NAIA to NCAA Division I.
The Bruins won 45 conference championships, including nine during their first four years in the Ohio Valley Conference, and made 17 NCAA Tournament appearances on Strickland’s watch.
Strickland added six sports and also oversaw the building of the Curb Event Center and the E.S. Rose Park Athletic Complex.
“I am humbled and honored to be recognized in this way,” Strickland said. “The accomplishments of athletic directors are due to the dedication and success of student-athletes, coaches and staff members.”
Inky Johnson speaking at The Coach Forum
Former Tennessee defensive back Inky Johnson, who is now a motivational speaker, will be the keynote speaker at The Coach Forum at Rocketown on July 14.
The forum, which is from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m., took place virtually in 2020 and will be smaller this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The event is sponsored by the Nashville Coaching Coalition and is designed for coaches and athletic administrators on all levels.
For more details or to register click here.
Cascade’s Sam Gardner earns weekly OVC honor
Former Cascade star Sam Gardner, who transferred as a graduate student from Alabama to Murray State, was the OVC pitcher of the week.
The Shelbyville native struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced in an 11-0 win over UT Martin.
Gardner went seven innings and allowed only three hits (two singles) and walked one batter. He finished with a career-best 10 strikeouts.
Gardner is fourth in the OVC in strikeouts (9.7/game), ninth in opponent batting average (.254) and 10th in ERA (4.37).
Tech assistant to coach USA women’s volleyball open team
For the second time in his career, Tennessee Tech assistant volleyball coach Zach Weinberg will represent the United States on a world stage, this time as head coach of the USA women’s volleyball open team at the 2022 Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Weinberg, who just completed his third year at Tech, also coached the Maccabi USA’s women’s youth and open women’s beach volleyball teams from April 2015 to January 2016.
Donoho named Goodpasture strength coach
Blaine Donoho is the new strength and conditioning coach at Goodpasture Christian.
Donoho, a Tennessee Tech graduate, previously served as director of campus recreation and wellness at Lipscomb University.
Music City Blitz flag football tournament is June 6 at Nissan Stadium
Registration is open for the 4th annual Music City Blitz Adult Flag Football Tournament, which will be played June 6 at Nissan Stadium.
It is a 5-on-5 format. Each team may include 15 players who must be 18 or older. Each team is guaranteed three games.
There are four divisions – top gun (teams which play together on a regular basis), recreational (those who play on a semi-regular basis and have limited organized football experience), co-ed (each roster must consist of at least four females with three on the field at all times), 35-older and Battle of the Badges (players must be current or retired law enforcement, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel or first responders).
Proceeds benefit the Tennessee Special Olympics. To register click here.
If you have an item for Midstate Chatter contact Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MIkeOrganWriter.