One of the worst-kept secrets in the NASCAR Cup Series garage.
NASCAR legend Kevin Harvick announced last year that he would retire at the end of the 2023 season.
The 2014 Cup Series champion has been racing in NASCAR’s top series since he was tapped by Richard Childress to replace Dale Earnhardt following the Intimidator’s tragic death in the 2001 Daytona 500.
He found immediate success, winning at Atlanta in only his third Cup Series start, and since then Harvick has gone on to win an incredible 60 races in his Cup career.
Harvick left Richard Childress Racing in 2014 to drive the #4 car for Stewart-Haas Racing, and won his first Cup Series championship in his first year with the team. And in addition, he also won two championships in NASCAR’s lower series, in 2001 and 2006.
It’s almost impossible to replace a driver like Kevin Harvick, somebody who brings not only so much talent, but also experience and leadership to a team like Stewart-Haas Racing that has a couple of young drivers behind the wheel.
But now we know who’s going to be asked to do it.
Well, to be fair we’ve pretty much known for awhile. Rumors have been flying for months that Josh Berry, driver of the #8 car for Dale Earnhardt Jr’s JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series would be replacing Harvick in the #4 car next season.
Berry is widely regarded as one of the most promising up-and-coming talents in NASCAR. He’s not only scored 5 wins in the Xfinity Series (with two of those wins coming when Berry wasn’t even a full-time driver), but he’s also recently become the preferred fill-in driver in the Cup Series when a team needs a replacement.
Back in March when Chase Elliott was injured in a snowboarding accident and was forced to miss 6 races due to a fractured leg, Berry was called on by Hendrick Motorsports to drive the #9 car – and Berry managed to score a career-best 2nd place finish in the Cup Series while filling in for Elliott at Richmond.
Then in May when Alex Bowman was injured in a sprint car wreck, Berry was once again called up to the big show to replace him in the #48 Hendrick Chevy, running an impressive 10th at Dover during his first race in the car.
Berry’s stock has been rising due to both his success in the Xfinity Series and his impressive runs during his time as a replacement driver in the Cup Series, so it’s only been a matter of time before he managed to land a full-time Cup Series ride. And when Berry signed a management deal with KHI, Kevin Harvick’s agency, it looked like it was only a matter of time before Harvick’s replacement was named.
Well, that time is now.
According to Matt Weaver at Sportsnaut, Berry will be officially named Harvick’s replacement during a press conference Wednesday, ahead of this weekend’s race at Nashville Superspeedway.
The news marks the highlight of an incredible journey for Berry to NASCAR’s highest series. The 32-year old native of Hendersonville, Tennessee worked as a bank teller to fund his racing career while racing at short tracks.
In 2008 Berry caught the eye of Dale Earnhardt Jr. while competing against the NASCAR legend in online sim racing. Earnhardt Jr. signed Berry shortly after, and he’s slowly worked his way up the ranks of motorsports to land what’s likely going to be the best open seat in the Cup Series going into 2024.
Obviously nobody is going to be able to jump in and immediately replace a guy like Kevin Harvick. But it’s safe to say that Berry was the popular choice to slide into the #4 car, and it’s going to be fun to see what he can do now that he’s going to be in the big show every week.
And it’s pretty cool that he gets to announce it on a week when NASCAR returns to his hometown.