After Dismal Clash Outing, Can Josh Berry Redeem SHR’s Image at the Daytona 500?

Published 02/09/2024, 3:41 PM EST

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The Clash at the Coliseum has never been an indicator of how things will be in the NASCAR season ahead. However, Stewart-Haas Racing‘s case has indicated that the team’s woes have continued since 2023. Last year, the team failed to get a win and recently retired Kevin Harvick was the only SHR driver to enter the playoffs. The team’s struggles aren’t new, but some of its drivers are, and 2022 Xfinity Series finalist Josh Berry is one of them.

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Berry was one of the impressive stand-in Cup Series drivers last year. Having replaced 2021 Cup champ Chase Elliott and recorded a P2 finish in the No.9 Chevrolet, he has earned considerable experience in the top flight. However, last week at the Coliseum, Josh Berry seemed to be a shadow of his former self as he failed to qualify for the Busch Light Clash main event. With the much-awaited Daytona 500 next on the schedule, all eyes are on Berry’s performance.

Josh Berry’s attributes make him a dark horse for the 2024 Daytona 500

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Berry’s journey to mainstream racing began in the JR Motorsports Late Model Program. Having raced in late models for a significant period of his career, intense racing with close-quarter action is his forte. The No.4 Ford driver could use that to his advantage on February 17. With the Daytona International Speedway proving to be a battle of survival more often than not, Josh Berry’s ruggedness is an excellent weapon.

However, the expectations could turn out to be a burden on him. Replacing a driver of Kevin Harvick’s caliber is extremely difficult. While Josh Berry inherited Rodney Childers’s expertise, the duo’s chemistry has been shaky so far. The season is just starting, so the 33-year-old will have time to adapt to Cup Series racing. Going against top teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Legacy Motor Club, Stewart-Haas Racing might just forge a race-winner in Berry.

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Since 2021, Josh Berry has only started in a single Cup Series race at Daytona. Last year, his stint with HMS equipment produced a P2 finish at Richmond. His performances were also the reason behind the No.9 team being in the race for the owner’s championship. On their road to success, the No.4 team has also added former No.9 spotter Eddie D’Hondt to their ranks.

With a winning atmosphere and world-class equipment at his disposal, it is only natural for one to expect great things from Josh Berry. However, his teammate Chase Briscoe could also be the one to steal his spotlight. Briscoe is the only current SHR driver with race-winning experience and prospects to lead SHR into its new era.

Chase Briscoe hopes to become Stewart-Haas Racing’s ace

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Recently, Tony Stewart has called for a change in the team. While the team’s management answered the call and refurbished itself in the off-season, the on-track proceedings were unsatisfactory. After Josh Berry’s disqualification from the Busch Light Clash main event, all three SHR drivers finished in the top 20, but they were expected to do more.

Leading from the front was Chase Briscoe with a P7 finish. Much of it is due to his increasing confidence and stature in the team. With Harvick gone, Briscoe is the most experienced driver on the roster, and instead of feeling the pressure, the 28-year-old is relishing the chance.

“I am going to be the senior guy there now, and that’s crazy to think only being three years in,” said Chase Briscoe on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “But I’m going to be the elder statesman there, so it’ll be interesting for sure. Something I’m excited for, but at the same time, I think that leadership role comes from running up front week in and week out. Kevin was the leader of that place because he ran the best on the most consistent basis.”

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It remains to be seen who fills in the big shoes of Kevin Harvick at Stewart-Haas Racing. Will it be the new No.4 driver, Josh Berry, or the man looking to step up in the No. 14, Chase Briscoe? The upcoming Daytona 500 might have a clue to it.

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Written by:

Ansuman Abhisek

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Ansuman Abhisek is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. Even before he made his way into the world of motorsports, he had already made a name for himself in the sports journalism field by working as a writer for a few media houses. Now, having covered multiple Cup races live, he has often been the first to report on-track incidents and also provide his readers with an in-depth analysis of the same.
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Edited by:

Ranvijay Singh

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