Sunday, July 14, 2024

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Wood Brothers “need to be better.” Is Josh Berry the reply?

Since returning to full-time competition after a temporary stint with the part-time team, the No. 21 Ford team of Ryan Blaney has collected one win and just 15 top-five finishes.

This wasn’t for lack of effort, because the team utilized the services of various different drivers during that point, including Blaney, Paul Menard, Matt DiBenedetto and most recently Harrison Burton, who got here over from the Xfinity Series.

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It’s clear that the outcomes haven’t been realized yet and it’s probably time for a change. The shakeup at Stewart-Haas Racing and the supply of drivers after this season have provided the team with a choice of talented options.

Harrison Burton, Wood Brothers Racing, DEX Imaging Ford Mustang

Harrison Burton, Wood Brothers Racing, DEX Imaging Ford Mustang

Photo: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsports images

The Wood Brothers this week hired Josh Berry, an experienced driver who’s just starting to search out his feet within the Cup Series, as the subsequent co-driver of the No. 21 automobile.

“We have to be better. There’s no secret to that,” Wood Brothers team president Jon Wood, a former driver, said this week. “It’s a chemistry business and a results-based sport, and immediately we just don’t have it.

“If Harrison shares some of the responsibility, if it's on us, we're not going to point fingers. We're not here to say this one's guilty or that one's guilty, we're just not where we need to be.”

“Finding the right chemistry and balance to get the results we want is what we’re looking for.”

Berry's Path to Wood Brothers No. 21

Berry, 33, had a rocky road to NASCAR’s top series, but his talent has remained consistent at every level, whether it’s been in Late Models, Xfinity and, most recently, Cup.

Although his first full-time Cup season this 12 months has not began off well, he and his No. 4 team have been a consistent threat and able to difficult for a win, with all 4 of his top-10 finishes this season coming within the last seven races.

He already has experience in two of NASCAR’s top operations in his short Cup profession. In fact, during his fill-in role with Hendrick Motorsports while still a full-time Xfinity driver, he earned a second-place finish at Richmond in 2023.

“When he replaced Hendrick, it was a real eye-opener,” Jon Wood said. “I mean, he can let you know that, but I can’t. Those cars are monsters, and never having had experience in a Next Gen automobile or a Cup automobile, to leap in there and drive like he did on several types of tracks, I mean, it really got all of us pondering.

“At that point, you don't really know. It's not something you're aware of. You don't think, 'Well, that could be our next driver,' but you still remember it and it stood out.”

When SHR co-owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas made the choice in May to shutter 4 Cup teams, it seemed Berry's promising Cup profession could be cut short before it could fully develop.

Josh Berry, Wood Brothers Racing

Josh Berry, Wood Brothers Racing

Photo: Lesley Ann Miller / Motorsports images

However, he believes he remains to be on the best track and has joined a corporation that shares his desire to enhance.

“I’m just very grateful and very fortunate to have a lot of great people around me who have given me opportunities, but also opportunities that have yielded results and allowed me to continue on this path,” Berry said.

“There's been quite a bit occurring over the previous few years. Now I even have a brand new opportunity for next 12 months that I'm really enthusiastic about. I believe it's an ideal fit for me. I even have an excellent opportunity to are available in here and help them get back to running where they wish to run and where they expect to run, and I even have the identical expectations.

“I think everyone at the Wood Brothers, as well as Team Penske and Ford, has what it takes to be competitive. I think with the Next Gen car that I'm in now, we'll be able to hit the ground running right away.”

That might be welcome news for the Wood Brothers, NASCAR's oldest team, which still strives to take care of a connection to NASCAR's essential history in a sport that remains to be trying to the long run.

“We had so many close calls, so many chances that other teams would have taken and would have missed, and we just pulled it off,” Jon Wood said. “Whether it was the best decision, the relationships, being good people.

“I don't know what did it, but to be 74 and 75, you must have done something right.”

A one centesimal Cup win with a brand new driver as a part of the seventy fifth anniversary celebrations would definitely be proof of that.

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