Joe Passero: Josh Berry’s 2021 throwback to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
When Dale Earnhardt Jr. captured his third NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory in the 2001 Pepsi 400, it was more than just another win. Six months earlier, he had finished in second place in the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
His father, seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt, was involved in a fatal accident on the final lap of that race, which occurred just a few hundred feet behind Dale Jr.’s car.
The loss of Earnhardt Sr. was an unforeseen tragedy that shook the NASCAR community to its core, and when Dale Jr. won in the series’ first trip back to Daytona, it became a significant moment in the healing process of fans and the sport as a whole.
That night, Dale Jr. drove a special paint scheme to promote a partnership between his primary sponsor, Budweiser, and MLB’s All-Star game. The white and red scheme only ran twice – until Josh Berry brought it back for an Xfinity Series race in 2021.
With some slight modifications to accommodate Berry’s sponsors, the baseball-themed scheme was revived on his #8 Chevrolet.
Berry finished in second place in the throwback to his boss, and he ended the race with tire marks all over the right-side door panel, just as Dale Jr.’s car did after he won the Pepsi 400. The extra detail wasn’t a product of intention, just of hard racing, and it made it even more sentimental for Dale Jr. fans to look at the throwback.
At the time of the running of the 2001 Pepsi 400, I was a toddler with no knowledge of racing. In my early years as a race fan, I gained my NASCAR knowledge and love through documentaries and other DVD programs such as “Road to Daytona 2003” and the “ESPN: Ultimate NASCAR” series.
My favorite one to watch was the 2007 documentary, “Dale”. I loved the storytelling elements toward the end of the film when Dale Jr.’s success at Daytona was documented. That pushed me to continue to learn about the significance and impact of the 2001 races at Daytona.
Over time, the 2001 Pepsi 400 has become one of my favorite races to rewatch, and the Budweiser/MLB All-Star Game paint scheme is something I will always see as one of the most meaningful paint schemes. Its significance is not only to myself and the beginning of my racing journey, but to one of the most meaningful moments in NASCAR history.
All of this weekend’s NASCAR races at Darlington Raceway are set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1. The Truck Series race, the Dead On Tools 200, is set to be broadcast live beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, May 6. The Xfinity Series race, the Mahindra ROXOR 200, is set to be broadcast live beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 7. And the Cup Series race, the Goodyear 400, is set to be broadcast live beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 8. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss any of the action!