Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Josh Berry Signing Is One Question Down for SHR With Many More to Go

1. Is Richard Boswell the piece that Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 team have been missing?

The last two months have been abysmal for Chase Briscoe; there is no other way to put it.

Briscoe’s most recent finish inside the top 15 came in April, where he finished fourth at Talladega Superspeedway. He’s had seven straight races with an average running position of 23rd or worse, and he’s now down to 31st in points after a 120-penalty on a car that finished 20th in the Coca-Cola 600.

Stewart-Haas Racing decided that something had to change, and Briscoe’s currently suspended crew chief Johnny Klausmeier has been replaced by Richard Boswell on a permanent basis.

The new partnership already looks good on paper. Boswell worked with Briscoe in the Xfinity Series between 2018 and 2020, and the pair won six races in 2020 and eight overall in their tenure (Greg Zipadelli was on the box for three of Briscoe’s nine 2020 wins after Boswell was suspended for an unsecured ballast at Homestead).

It’s been a year and a half since the pair last worked together, but look for Briscoe to make more noise in the front half of the field at Nashville Superspeedway. Considering how poor the No. 14 team has been running the last two months, there’s no direction for them to go but up.

See also
Chase Briscoe Reunited With Former Xfinity Series Crew Chief

2. Is Martin Truex Jr. back as a serious championship contender?

Last year saw rumors of Martin Truex Jr. retiring until he announced that he was back for 2023. Going winless and missing the playoffs in 2022 didn’t help the rumblings this offseason, but all of that seems like a distant memory after Truex’s recent power run.

Truex ended a 54-race drought by winning at Dover Motor Speedway in May, and he followed it up with his fourth Cup win at Sonoma Raceway in June. With two wins, five top 10s, 343 laps led and an average finish of 8.2 in the last six races, Truex has jumped from seventh in points to the lead.

It’s the first time that Truex has held the regular season points lead since the fifth race of the 2018 season, and the No. 19 team has been firing on all cylinders in the last two months after a slow start to the year.

Truex hasn’t been a one-trick pony either. He’s shown race winning speed at Sonoma, Dover, Darlington Raceway, Richmond Raceway and Kansas Speedway, five completely different tracks. Sonoma was also a statement win for Truex, who scored his first road course win since 2019 after being king of the road to close out the 2010s.

After the outburst between Truex and crew chief James Small at Richmond Raceway, it appears a switch has been flipped within the No. 19 team. They’ve been fast almost everywhere, and Truex will enter the playoffs as one of the title favorites once again.

3. Nashville Superspeedway is in the third year of a four-year contract. What does the future hold for 2025?

Abandoned since the Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series left after 2011, Nashville Superspeedway returned to NASCAR with a four-year contract in the Cup Series.

The track was given a triple-header, which marked the Cup Series’ first race in the Nashville area since 1984 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

Part of the reason for the Superspeedway’s return? To bring the Fairgrounds back.

The most recent NASCAR national touring series race at the track was held in 2000, the year before the Superspeedway opened. After hosting ARCA races in the late 2010s, the future of the track is currently swept up in municipal propositions and votes.

On the other side of the metropolitan area, the Superspeedway has had a successful return. A sold-out crowd showed up for the inaugural Cup race in 2021, and there will be a sold-out crowd once again in 2023.

What happens to the Superspeedway depends on the vote for renovating the Fairgrounds. Depending on the vote, there are three options for what racing in Tennessee’s capitol will look like in a few years’ time:

  • 1. NASCAR returns to the Fairgrounds. Superspeedway is left behind.
  • 2. Return to the Fairgrounds fails, and the Superspeedway remains.
  • 3. NASCAR returns to the Fairgrounds and the Superspeedway for one date each.
See also
2-Headed Monster: Are Rumored Track Changes Too Much Too Soon?

The rumors are flying in regard to potential schedule changes for the Cup Series in wake of the new TV contracts, and on top of that, the future of the nearby Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race remains murky. Option one, two or three are all feasible possibilities, but we will get a better idea once the future of the Fairgrounds is signed off on.

4. The Josh Berry is official. What’s the next step in the 2024 silly season for SHR?

One of the worst-kept secrets in the garage is finally official: Josh Berry will replace Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 car for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2024.

See also
Josh Berry Replacing Kevin Harvick at SHR

Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers will reprise his role for Berry, and with Briscoe inked through 2026, SHR now has half of its driver lineup set for 2024.

The No. 4 car’s sponsorship lineup, however? A completely blank slate.

Anheuser-Busch has been a partner of Harvick’s for 13 years through its Budweiser and Busch brands. There have been rumors of A-B moving on, and Tony Stewart’s answer added to fuel to an already growing fire.

Mobil 1 has been a partner of SHR (not just Harvick) for over a decade, but how many of his other sponsors would remain committed to the team after his retirement? That’s currently up in the air.

And although nothing has been announced, a potential sponsor next year might be one Stewart has worked with in both the past and present: one that already sponsors Berry in Xfinity.

SHR has just over seven months to get deals lined up for 2024, but that’s not the only sponsorship situation with a question mark.

Aric Almirola signed a new contract with SHR in the summer of 2022 after initially announcing his full-time retirement at the start of the year. He’s on a multi-year deal with an option for 2024, but Almirola remains undecided about returning or hanging it up next season.

If Almirola returns, the 2024 plans for the No. 10 are open and shut as he and Smithfield would return. But if Almirola decides to retire, SHR will have to deal with the likely loss of Smithfield and find sponsorship for a second car.

Smithfield has partnered with Almirola since 2011, and the company’s departure would be another blow to an SHR team that is already tight on sponsorship. That’s not even considering who would take over the No. 10 if Almirola retired. Cole Custer? Riley Herbst? Someone from a different team?

Ryan Preece’s return isn’t a done deal either. There is no knowledge of Preece signing a contract beyond 2023, and while nothing has been announced or rumored, it’s certainly a situation to keep an eye on.

Berry’s contract answered SHR’s biggest question on who would replace Harvick, but the team’s silly season is far from over.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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Dawg

Another silly season domino might be about to fall.

The news at the beginning of the season was that FED EX was in financial trouble, & it’s NASCAR sponsorship might be in trouble for next season.

I just read where they are now accused of the biggest ever odometer fraud case, for replacing odometers in trucks they are selling. A guilty verdict could push them to the brink of bankruptcy.

Not good news for them or Hamlin.

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