Sometimes, a plan comes together all on its own.
Such is the case in the marriage between JR Motorsports, driver Josh Berry and FilterTime, the company co-owned by former NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Blake Koch and JRM team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Koch, 35, stepped away from being a NASCAR driver and formed FilterTime in 2018 as a unique subscription-based remedy for homeowners to keep up with the important task of replacing their household filters. After some discussion between Koch and Earnhardt Jr., the two-time Daytona 500 winner and 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver became a partner in the concern.
Following a stellar 2020 Late Model season which saw the 30-year-old Berry win 27 of 40 races and earn the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series championship, Earnhardt Jr. gave the Tennessee native the opportunity of a lifetime: a ride in his team’s No. 8 Chevrolet for the first half of the 2021 NXS season.
The end result is, Berry will have sponsorship from FilterTime for the opening race of the season at Daytona International Speedway. It’s not the first time FilterTime has been on one of JRM’s Chevrolet Camaros. Justin Allgaier gave the company its first victory—in its second race as a primary sponsor—on Sept. 11, 2020 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. In 2019, Allgaier had FilterTime on his car at Kentucky Speedway.
There’s another thread to this union of driver and business owners. Berry has driven Late Models at JRM since 2010, winning two track championships, the 2016 CARS Racing Tour owner championship and the 2017 CARS Tour driver title, to go along with last year’s NASCAR championship.
Koch and Berry have even competed against each other in NXS competition, in 2016. Berry started 12th and finished 13th in the event at Kentucky Speedway, while Koch started 15th and finished 11th. The 35-year-old Floridian left the cockpit to form FilterTime in 2019.
“I’m really grateful to have FilterTime on board our No. 8 Chevrolet in Daytona and get the opportunity to learn more and get to know Blake (Koch),” Berry said. “It’s a big opportunity for me and for them as a growing business and hopefully we can work together and do some good things. We’ve been able to accomplish a lot over the past few years in the Late Models and I feel really good about this opportunity at the next level. I can’t wait to get going and get this year started off on a strong note.”
For Koch, the Richmond victory was a huge event in the life of his young company, and that feeling gave rise to thoughts of 2021.
“We got a victory in only our second time on the car, so what’s the next best thing?,” Koch said. “Being part of a new opportunity for a driver who deserves it. I think everybody in the sport is happy to hear that Josh has races, and we all know he’s worked very, very hard to be in this situation. To have someone like Dale behind him and pushing him…Dale believed in me as a business owner to help partner with me to build FilterTime, and I see that heart and passion he has for Josh.
“If you put all this together, where we take FilterTime and all the passion and work we put into it and get behind Josh is a cool situation. Everybody at FilterTime is super excited to get behind Josh and be part of this opportunity. We’re excited to see what comes of it.”
Earnhardt Jr. is the common thread between the two, having performed the same service for both Koch and Berry. Koch reached out to Earnhardt Jr. when he formed FilterTime, and he joined Koch as a partner to back it up. Likewise, Earnhardt Jr. picked Berry to drive his Late Models in 2010, and Berry has won a national championship, the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and 83 races.
“Having Dale involved is always a positive,” Berry said, harking back to when he and Earnhardt Jr. met in the early days of online racing. “Everything he’s done for me has been amazing, and what he’s continuing to do for me throughout this opportunity…we’re just working hard to have some good results.”
With that as the backdrop, Koch was delighted to be part of Berry’s ascension to the NXS as a sponsor and supporter.
“It means the world to me,” he said. “The passion that I had to be a driver…I was telling Josh, to be a driver in this sport, it takes everything you have, 100 percent of your passion, your work ethic, your relationships. When you wake up and when you go to bed, you have to think about being the best race-car driver you can be. Getting better at interviews, being better on the track with leadership and preparation with your team. You have to be the best.
“I’ve taken that, everything I learned in the sport, and put it into building this company. What I’ve been able to learn from racing I’ve applied to FilterTime and it’s working out great for us. It’s team-building, having relationships with your customers. As a driver, you have a relationship with your fans and ultimately your sponsors are happy for that as well. I’m done as a driver, so now, for me, it’s all about my customers, how can I meet their needs, how can I relate to them, make them excited? All those things I did as a driver with my fans I now do as a business owner for my customers.
“It’s just cool to see it all come together. Now, to be a part of somebody who really appreciates and works as hard as I did to combine both efforts. Josh has clearly worked as hard as anybody if not harder to get here; I’ve worked as hard as anybody if not harder than any other company to do this, and we all get to do it together. It’s pretty cool.”