Thoughts on Josh Berry moving to Wood Brothers Racing next season & what does it mean for Noah Gragson and Ryan Preece ahead of team’s last race in early November

by Sports Benches

One of Dale Jr’s mentees Josh Berry is now set to replace Harrison Burton in the No.21 Ford Mustang for Wood Brothers Racing from next season off the back of Stewart-Haas Racing’s shutdown. He will still carry the No.4 Ford in the meantime as planned up until SHR’s final ever race come early November at Phoenix Raceway in Arizona as his rookie Cup season isn’t bad so far in 19th and also leading the rookie-of-the-year standings too with some great Top 5 and 10 finishes including 2 x 3rd at Darlington (May) and New Hampshire (two weeks ago) going into the Chicago Street Course (Round 20 of 36) this weekend.

He is someone who has an excellent race pedigree as Dale Jr. discovered in his eyes when he gave him a chance at JR Motorsports back in 2022-23 at Xfinity Series level before Josh accepted the offer to replace the now-retired Kevin Harvick at SHR this year and then the organization suddenly ran its course with the announcement of SHR shutting down at season’s end a few months later. I’m glad though that Wood Brothers also needed a new direction and they somehow found a great driver who can hopefully get back to their best with Berry behind the wheel after Harrison Burton just couldn’t show the consistency they were after over the last few years despite bringing his own sponsorship via Dex Imaging. WBR still has yet to taste their 100th Cup win in their decades-long existence after Ryan Blaney last won there for the team’s 99th win at Pocono in back mid-2017 before he went on to do even better at Team Penske but time will tell with Berry in the No.21 Mustang being supported by Ford the whole way through alongside the manufacturer’s subsidiary sponsorship of Motorcraft & Quick Lane Auto Repairs.

So far the No.14 of Chase Briscoe has already been signed up to replace the retiring Martin Truex Jr. last week at Joe Gibbs Racing that will also begin at the start of next season in the No.19 Toyota Camry while Ryan Preece and Noah Gragson are still on the lookout for other rides.Now Gragson wouldn’t be short of suitors since his performances have been solid since his return from suspension in the No.10 where he will likely end up at Front Row Motorsports unlike the No.41’s Preece who would most likely drop down to Xfinity and/or Trucks level instead of trying to just stay there with Kaulig or Rick Ware Racing.

Plus, If you’re wondering what’s going to happen with SHR’s 4th and final charter? Well, It’s not going anywhere after all with Gene Haas keeping one for just himself under the newly created Haas Factory Racing organization by operating one Cup car and two Xfinity Series teams. Tony Stewart won’t have any involvement at all as he will be focusing on his drag racing team as well as his young family with his wife and veteran drag racer Leah Pruett expecting their first child together (a baby boy) this November. Who will be part of Team Haas? It will be easy to say Cole Custer whose dad is part of Haas’s management team while they will keep on running Fords, although it remains to be seen which alliance Haas will link up with at a later date.

I think though in my opinion that Brad Keselowski via his co-owned RFK Racing team (No.6 car) would love to team up with Haas together by turning from two cars into three under RFK-Haas Racing without him having to buy another charter that is worth $40 million nowadays. But again you never know and it would allow Ford to have a proper young driver pathway like Toyota is doing with Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing where Keselowski would love to have one of his drivers succeed at Xfinity level before being given the chance to race for him at the top level someday once his driving days are eventually over.

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