For the first time in 11 years, Nashville natives will get a chance to race in front of friends and family at a hometown race this weekend as NASCAR races a triple-header. Two local drivers who are looking forward to the Nashville Superspeedway race are Brentwood’s Jade Buford and Hendersonville’s Josh Berry who will both will driving in the Xfinity Series race on Saturday night.
The two drivers have different stories and paths that brought them to the track with Buford spending almost all of his racing career in sports cars, specifically Porsches in the Porsche Club of America Racing.
“From 2009 to2020 I raced all sports cars. It’s what I knew,” says Buford. “I always wanted to race NASCAR, but I didn’t know how to get there until last year when I got the opportunity to run the road courses in the Xfinity series.”
This is his first full season in an Xfinity car and he’s driving for the team Big Machine Racing team, owned by Big Machine Record Group founder Scott Borchetta. Borchetta is an avid racing fan and races himself currently in the Trans Am Class 2 Series. The two met while at the Circuit of the America’s in Texas and hit it off.
“Scott and I met at COTA a couple of year ago. I had the opportunity to work with him, show him around the track, and help him develop his skills as a sports car driver,” says Buford.
However, Berry’s story is a little different. He started racing all over middle Tennessee in go-carts at 8-years-old and slowly moved up the ranks as a driver. “My dad raced go carts a little here and there. We watched the races on a TV and it was something I wanted to do, but it took us a little while to put it together,” says Berry.
It wasn’t until in 2008 when Berry met NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. at an iRacing event at the Nashville Fairground Speedway, that it was made sense. There was an instant connection between the two, and in 2010 Berry moved to North Carolina to work for Jr. Motorsports.
“At that point in my life, I was 18 or 19 years old and didn’t have a set future by any means when it came to racing,” says Berry. “It started very small. I got a couple of opportunities and shortly after that I moved to N.C. and began working for Jr. Motorsports. Now, the rest is history.”
Both drivers have been looking forward to this weekend’s Tennessee Lottery 250 on Saturday, June 19, because they both have something to prove. For Berry, this is his last race in the Xfinity Series No. 8 car for Jr. Motorsports. This season, he won the race at Martinsville while also picking up a handful of top ten and top five finishes.
“Its bitter-sweet feeling for me this week,” shares Berry. “I’m excited to compete in Nashville and get an opportunity to bring my wife, daughter, and family there. At the same time, this is the last opportunity in the No. 8 car this year so it’s a bitter-sweet moment.”
Buford, on the other hand, is confident that the Big Machine racing team will start inching closer to a top 10 finish as the team keeps building. He has eight top 20 finishes, two top 15’s, and has finished in the top 17 in each of the last four races.
“I know we’ll eventually get there, but we’re going through some new team stuff. I think what we have done this year is actually incredible. We are four months old and we are consistently in the top 20,” says Buford. “When we go to the road courses, I think we’ll be a top 10 at minimum, but we should be racing for top five’s since that is my background.”
NASCAR hasn’t raced at the Nashville Superspeedway in 11 years, so many of this weekend’s drivers have never raced there before or haven’t done so in quite a long time. Buford hopes this gives him an advantage as he is still getting used to his Chevy Camaro stock car. “Nashville is a place that many of the drivers I’m competing against have never been to. It’s going to be a more level-playing field,” Buford says. “Many can’t rely on years of experience.”
Berry also thinks it will be a level playing field, but he says big tracks are his achilles heel. However, he knows that the lack of experience most of the Xfinity drivers have on this track will bring him some level of an advantage. Berry is excited to see the stands packed with local racing fans and to see motorsports return to a city that has changed so much since growing up in Hendersonville.
“Nashville is growing a lot and it’s amazing seeing motorsports becoming a part of that,” says Berry. “You want to continue to see that get fans get excited about racing. Hopefully some of the fans that come out for the triple-header this weekend can make their way to the fairgrounds for some short track racing too.”
Buford still lives in Nashville so he is witness to the ongoing changes and growth everyday. He moved with his family in 1997 from Houston at the same time the Titans–then the Houston Oilers–made the same move to Tennessee.
“Nashville is growing at an uncontrollable rate, but it’s growing for the better,” says Buford. “It’s amazing to see how this town evolved, especially with the Nashville Predators. We have the new soccer stadium going in right by the fairgrounds, and I think every sport we have here has been positive at bringing more to Nashville.”
The drivers will have a full weekend of practices and qualifying. Buford still has a lot to prove as a first year NASCAR driver with a new team, but sees success in the near future especially when he heads to road courses like Watkin’s Glen. Meanwhile, Berry will also race in the Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, June 18 for local team Rackley W.A.R racing team. With the opportunity he received from Jr. Motorsports this season, he hopes to keep building off of it for next year.
“This was a great opportunity for to get 12 races at the beginning of the season and hopefully to prove myself that I can do it. I think we accomplished that,” says Berry. “All in all, its been positive and exciting for Jr. Motorsports as a whole and hopefully down the road we can continue.”