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Will Josh Berry Succeed With Wood Brothers Racing in 2025?

Will Josh Berry Succeed With Wood Brothers Racing in 2025?

by Tino Pattigno III

With the news becoming official that Josh Berry will drive the No. 21 car for Wood Brothers Racing in 2025, the next question that comes to my mind is:  Will he have success?


Will Josh Berry Succeed With Wood Brothers Racing?

My questioning comes not for Josh Berry himself but for the team that he will be driving for.

Full transparency:  The title of this blog was “Can Josh Berry Have Success…” I changed it because I believe the answer is yes.

Berry had a decorated late model career, in which he is the all-time wins leader in the CARS Tour overall and CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour. He was also the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Champion in 2022 and the CARS Late Model Stock Tour Champion in 2017. Not long after, he was competing for the NASCAR Xfinity Series title with JR Motorsports (JRM). He is more than capable of continuing his NASCAR career in the sport’s top series. His current trajectory reminds me of Martin Truex Jr in some ways.

Berry is a rookie in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series, but the 33-year-old should not be considered a rookie to racing by any means. Despite this, his performance this season has proved to some why he deserved to drive the No. 4 car for Stewart-Haas Racing, replacing the legendary Kevin Harvick. 

Through the first 20 races of Berry’s Cup campaign, he has two T5s and four T10s, with 70 laps led and an average finish of 20.9. This places Berry 21st in the driver’s standings. Those current totals net Berry four spots ahead of Carson Hocevar and 13 above Zane Smith, the two other full-time rookies this year. 

Berry continues to bring his short-track success with him through the ranks. He has been a contender at tracks like Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond this year. Although he’s strong there, he also has had surprising runs with third-place finishes at New Hampshire and Darlington.

So, with the No. 4 car having that success, what is there to worry about? 

Replacing Harrison Burton

Wood Brothers Racing and the No. 21 car have not been in contention for race wins, let alone T10 finishes in the last 92 races. After Ryan Blaney left the organization in 2017, joining Team Penske and forming a third car for them, it seemed that whoever was driving the No. 21 was a fourth Team Penske car. This was not necessarily due to high finishes, but the car would be prepared in the Penske shop, and there was a Ford alliance there. With Matt DiBenedetto making the playoffs with the team in 2020 and narrowly missing out in 2021, all signs pointed to Harrison Burton. Wood Brothers Racing wanted Burton, as he was a young driver to mold him into the program as the NextGen car was introduced in 2022. 

Since then, there has been an extreme lack of production from the No. 21 team compared to years past. This really became evident to me when I saw how well the teams at Front Row Motorsports (FRM) have been running thus far this season. A now expanded alliance with Team Penske has proven to be a major benefit to FRM. We have seen Michael McDowell with multiple poles this season and Todd Gilliland with some strong T10 runs as well. 

Is Harrison Burton the one to blame? Well, to be fair, it is only his third full-time season in the Cup Series. Still, he doesn’t stack up compared to Berry this season, having only T10 finish, seven laps le, and an average finish of 26.7, putting him in 33rd in the standings. 

Does this mean getting rid of the 23-year-old Burton is the way to fix the performance issues for the Wood Brothers? My answer is that it is definitely a start. I would not say it’s fair to pinpoint Burton as the scapegoat for all of their struggles, though – especially since the ownership at that camp were the ones who moved on from DiBenedetto for Burton.

This No. 21 group needs to have a major restart overall, as they have not been contending for T10s on a weekly basis since defending Cup Champion Ryan Blaney was with them. 

Harrison Burton’s Future

Although he has not proven anything to us in the Cup Series, I do believe he can come back from this and get stronger. The main thing that comes to my mind when thinking of his current situation is what Denny Hamlin said on his podcast, Actions Detrimental:

Burton had four wins with a ton of laps led while running full-time in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in 2020 and 2021. If he chooses to go back down there and refine his racecraft and win, I believe another Cup Series opportunity will open up for him.

Sometimes, drivers and teams are not the right fit. When you are as young as he is, I would rather see him in contention to win races each week in the Xfinity Series than run last pretty much every week in the Cup Series, destroying any confidence he had. 

Josh Berry’s Biggest Unknown

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The Biggest unknown for Berry will be his crew chief for 2025. If he could have been paired back with Rodney Childers at Wood Brothers Racing, that would be huge for him.

The two have worked extremely well together thus far this season. When I think about the best driver/crew chief pairings in the garage right now, the first ones that come to my mind are Kyle Larson and Cliff Daniels, Denny Hamlin and Chris Gabehart and then Rodney Childers and Josh Berry. That said, no one has been a bigger advocate for Berry than his current crew chief.

It reminds me of when Cole Pearn and Martin Truex Jr. were put together in 2015.  This is why I eluded him to the comparison of Martin Truex Jr. earlier, as it is now starting to come full circle. In 2015, Truex Jr. and Pearn were paired together, and the New Jersey native only had two NASCAR Cup Series wins to his name at the time.

He now has 34 Cup Series wins and a championship won in 2017. Pearn stepped down in 2019, and at 44 years old, Truex Jr. will be retiring from full-time racing after this season. I think Josh Berry has the talent to have a long career in the Cup Series similar to that of Truex Jr., with how their ages have played out.

Berry and Childers together? Well, the sky would have been the limit for those two, no matter what team they were on. However, Spire Motorsports just announced that Childers will be the crew chief Corey Lajoie in the No. 7 car starting in 2025:

This leaves the NASCAR world wondering who will be atop the No. 21 pit box come next season. The current crew chief for the No. 21 team, Jeremy Bullins, hasn’t been ruled out, nor has it been announced that he would return to the team.

The Aftereffect 

I would have liked to see Josh Berry with an instant championship-caliber team. Somewhere like 23XI Racing would have been ideal, as we have seen with Tyler Reddick and even Bubba Wallace’s growth with that team. Even signing with Roush Fenway Keselowski (RFK) Racing to race alongside Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher would have been great.

Whether Wood Brothers Racing is just a stepping stone or somewhere he’ll revitalize that organization is yet to be seen. Currently, the only charter we know of being bought from Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) for sure is from FRM. Trackhouse Racing and 23XI are rumored to be the other two looking to buy, while Gene Haas is keeping one.

With Chase Briscoe to JGR and Berry to Wood Brothers Racing, I would expect Cole Custer in the Haas ride, as it is heavily rumored. Do Noah Gragson and Ryan Preece go to Front Row?

Let us know your predictions for the 2025 NASCAR Silly Season!

Thanks for reading my blog on “Will Josh Berry Have Success With Wood Brothers Racing in 2025?”. Follow me on Twitter/X @tinopattigno for more NASCAR takes and betting advice.

*Photo Credit: Stan Szeto – USA TODAY Sports*

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