Josh Berry and Stewart-Haas Racing are working toward finalizing a contract that would see Berry drive full time for the team in the NASCAR Cup Series beginning in 2024, and a deal is expected to be completed in the coming weeks, multiple sources briefed on the negotiations told The Athletic. No contract has been signed yet, per the sources. Here’s what you need to know:
- Berry is filling the spot on SHR’s Cup roster currently occupied by the retiring Kevin Harvick, where he is expected to be paired with championship-winning crew chief Rodney Childers, who has led Harvick’s team for the past 10 years.
- Berry currently drives full time in the second-tier Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- He also serves as the reserve driver for Hendrick Motorsports in Cup, where he’s made eight starts this season filling in for the injured Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman.
During Berry’s eight-race stint as a Hendrick fill-in for its Nos. 9 and 48 teams, he finished in the top 10 three times, with a best result of second at Richmond Raceway last month. Last Sunday at North Wilkesboro Speedway, driving in place of Bowman, he won a qualifying race to earn a spot in the All‐Star Race.
“You don’t really see his aggressiveness until he needs it, which is what you want in every driver,” Hendrick vice chairman Jeff Gordon said after the April 2 race at Richmond. “You want them to be patient when they need to be patient and aggressive when they need to be aggressive, and he seems to have that ability.
“Josh has done an excellent job; he’s really put a lot of effort into it.”
Berry’s path to NASCAR’s premier series is unlike that of many drivers who’ve recently advanced to Cup, a blue-collar journey that’s made him popular with many fans. The 32-year-old didn’t race full time in Xfinity until last season, at an age that many drivers have already moved to the Cup level, nor had the financial backing to bring to a prospective team to hasten his path up NASCAR’s developmental ladder.
But with the continued adamant support of his good friend Earnhardt, who he drove for in regional races across the Mid-Atlantic for several years, Berry eventually secured a full-time opportunity with Earnhardt’s Xfinity team. In 73 total starts, he’s won five races and finished fourth in the championship last year.
What Berry has done in Xfinity, combined with his impressive performance substituting for Elliott and Bowman, raised Berry’s stock to where he was one of the top available drivers on the market.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last five weeks,” Berry said April 15 during the weekend of Elliott’s return. “It’s definitely different than Xfinity racing, but I feel like I was thrown into a pretty difficult situation, and I think we left all very positive about the experience. I think it just did a lot for my confidence. I’m really grateful for that experience and what it did for me.
“We’ll see what the future holds. I’d love to be racing a Cup car, but right now I’m just trying to stay focused on this (JRM) team. We keep working hard building fast race cars, we’ll win races and I’ll probably be in the Cup Series.”
SHR, co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, seeks a driver after Harvick announced in January that the coming season would be his final one before stepping away. Harvick, who’s competed in Cup since 2001, joined SHR in 2014 and during his stellar tenure with the organization won a series‐best 37 races during that span, the 2014 series championship, and five times earned a berth in the Championship Four — all with Childers as his crew chief.
SHR is regarded as one of NASCAR’s big four teams and Childers is one of the top crew chiefs in the garage, meaning Berry is stepping into a situation that presents an opportunity to be competitive. It also represents a manufacturer change for Berry, who’s been aligned with Chevrolet but will now drive for Ford‐backed SHR.
(Photo: Matthew OHaren / USA Today)