Josh Berry moving to Stewart-Haas Racing was not a surprise to really anyone. It had been rumored and predicted for weeks, and, with the Matt Weaver report coming out earlier this week, it became even more of a formality.
That is not to say that the press conference was inconsequential. There were plenty of things learned during the press conference, and, along the way, it provided some hope to young racers out there. Here are three things we learned from the Stewart-Haas Racing press conference.
1. Sponsorship is still being worked on
Sponsorship is often the deciding factor in who does or who does not get a seat, and that is not exclusive to the smaller teams or lower-tier drivers. Kyle Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing in large part because of sponsorship issues, and he recently commented on this issue when asked about John Hunter Nemechek in the Xfinity Series.
That was a major question when it came to Josh Berry being announced as the new driver of the number 4 car for Stewart-Haas Racing: Who would sponsor the car? Tony Stewart commented on that saying that sponsorship is currently “Totally open”
We’re having discussions internally with current sponsors, and then we have a lot of potential sponsors that are interested in this program as well.Tony Stewart
With sponsorship so uncertain, it is quite a risk for Tony Stewart to bring in a guy like Berry. It’s a move that is controversial for some, as great of a story as it is. Bob Pockrass even recently reported that one of Stewart-Haas’ biggest sponsors, Anheuser-Busch, is rumored to be leaving the team
So if that is the case, then why did Stewart take such a big risk? The reasoning behind it is one simple reason, Berry’s talent.
2. Berry Earned this Ride on Merit
Josh Berry took the road less traveled when it comes to racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. As opposed to the “modern” path of linking yourself up with a big name sponsor, working your way up through the lower series during your teens, and making it to Cup by your early 20s, Berry had to work for it. He spent his 20s running late models, and he did not run his first full-time NASCAR season until he was in his early 30s.
Tony Stewart is not afraid of that at all. As a matter of fact, he welcomes Berry earning his ride purely on merit rather than sponsorship money.
I’m not interested in some kid’s father coming and buying their way into the Cup Series. I have zero interest in that. We want guys that earn their way, that work hard, that understand the values that it takes to be a top-tier driver, not one that just got his high school diploma and all of a sudden he is a Cup driver.Tony Stewart
Regardless of whether or not people feel Berry is good for Stewart-Haas Racing or vice-versa, Berry earned this ride. He won late model races and championships to earn an Xfinity ride. He won Xfinity Series races to earn himself an opportunity in Cup with Rick Hendrick.
What did he do when he got to Cup? He ran competitively in not the easiest of situations. Not only that, but he has built strong relationships along the way, and his strongest racing relationship supports this move.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Fully Supports This
It’s never easy to tell the guy who gave you your first big break that you are moving on to pursue better opportunities. Berry and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have known each other for many years. Berry talked about the impact Earnhardt Jr. has had on him, and the support given to him by Earnhardt Jr. and those at Jr Motorsports for this move.
They have been there every step of the way throughout the process. They were fully aware of the opportunity potentially in front of me, and were in full support…They were supportive of me the whole way.Josh Berry
It’s probably not a huge surprise to see Earnhardt Jr. be as supportive of this as he is. However, it does highlight the value and importance of relationships. Berry earned his way to the top on merit, but it took a good relationship with Dale Earnhardt Jr. to help get him there.
Conclusion: This Shows Hope for Young Drivers With Little Funding
In a day and age where many may complain that the only drivers who get opportunities are the ones with the deepest pockets, Josh Berry is a breath of fresh air. Not only that, but he is a role model for other young drivers out there who maybe do not have the funding behind them.
Berry is proof that merit can and will still earn you opportunities in racing. Tony Stewart is proof that owners out there still do value drivers who work hard and race well regardless of how much financial support is behind them. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is proof of both what Stewart represents, and that good relationships can take you far in this sport.
Regardless of how this move works out for either side, this is a big day for the little guy at that short track in Anytown, USA.