Tony Stewart May 23, 2019; Concord, NC, USA; NASCAR Cup Series car owner Tony Stewart looks on in the garage during practice for the Coca-cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, Stewart-Haas Racing announced that Josh Berry will drive the #4 in the NASCAR Cup Series, starting in 2024. Berry replaces Kevin Harvick, who will be retiring from NASCAR and join Fox as a commentator.

This is great for those drivers who don’t have a financial backer to advance them to the top of the NASCAR world. The 32-year-old Berry largely got here based on his talent and nothing else. Tony Stewart highlighted that in the press conference. Stewart didn’t mince words about pay drivers infiltrating NASCAR, and he adamantly said he had “zero interest” in “some kid’s father coming in and buying their way into the Cup Series.”

That’s definitely taking a stand, and one that is refreshing to hear for many NASCAR fans. Although, there are times when SHR looked at young drivers and those who brought in money.

SHR currently employs Cole Custer and Riley Herbst in the Xfinity Series. Custer’s dad, Joe, is a longtime SHR executive, even before Stewart became a partner in the team. Cole started racing for SHR at 19, moving into Cup in 2020 at age 22. After one win in three seasons, Custer moved back to the Xfinity Series.

Herbst’s family owns Terrible Herbst, a gas station company with Chevron stations located throughout the southwest. Herbst’s grandfather is CEO while his father and uncles help run the business. Riley was signed in 2021, at age 22, to race in the Xfinity Series.

In addition, some SHR drivers raced due to sponsorship money. Danica Patrick was funded by Go Daddy, and later Nature’s Bakery and Aspen Dental, and raced for SHR for five years. Aric Almirola now races the #10, which is largely funded by Smithfield. Almirola was set to retire after the 2022 season. Although, due to an increased commitment by Smithfield allowed Almirola to hold off retirement for at least two more seasons.

That being said, it’s great that Stewart is doing all he can to provide rides for drivers who have the talent, but don’t have the financial backing behind them. While SHR may have hired some drivers who brought in money, they tried to give talented racers a shot at the Cup Series. Right now, Ryan Preece and Chase Briscoe both drive for SHR. Both drivers are talented, but aren’t known for bringing much sponsorship money. Both drivers got their Cup starts in their late 20s. That’s an age where most teams would cast them aside in favor of the hottest young driver coming up through the ranks.

At 32, Berry is in a similar situation as Preece and Briscoe. Berry was an ace on the local short track scene. The only barrier that was keeping him from moving into NASCAR was a lack of sponsorship or family money. Berry started racing regularly for JR Motorsports in 2021 in Xfinity. After Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman both suffered injuries earlier this season, Berry got a chance to race for Hendrick Motorsports. In eight races, Berry had three top 10 finishes, including a career best second place finish at Richmond.

That was good enough for Tony Stewart to give Berry a chance, and he now has a full-time NASCAR Cup Series ride.

[Jeff Gluck]

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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