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Josh Berry, Carson Hocevar Racing Into Uncertain Futures

#4: Josh Berry, Stewart Haas Racing, Ford Mustang

So far during the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, the battle for Rookie of the Year has been pretty quiet.

Josh Berry, who took over the No. 4 from Kevin Harvick, did not score a top-10 finish until a few weeks ago at Darlington Raceway. Berry’s third-place result allowed him to pass Carson Hocevar for highest rookie in overall points.

Hocevar only has one top 10 of his own, a 10th-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway. However, he is ahead of both of his Spire Motorsports teammates in points, including fellow rookie Zane Smith and the more experienced Corey LaJoie. Following the Coca-Cola 600, Berry is 36 points ahead of Hocevar.

It seems hard to believe that Berry and Hocevar are battling each other for Rookie of the Year honors when you consider how different their paths to the Cup Series were. Berry drove late models under the tutelage of Dale Earnhardt Jr. for years, making only sporadic starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series during the 2010s. When he finally got the opportunity to race for JR Motorsports with more regularity, Berry proved his mettle and started winning races at the national level.

Last season, he filled in as a substitute Cup driver at Hendrick Motorsports for both Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman. Yet it was an open seat with Ford at Stewart-Haas Racing that finally got Berry to NASCAR’s highest level. Beginning his full-time Cup career at age 33, he’s a bit older than most Cup rookies.

Hocevar, on the other hand, has had a much quicker rise through NASCAR’s ranks. He was 18 years old in 2021 when he began racing for Niece Motorsports in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Although inexperienced, he got faster with every passing race. The floodgates opened in 2023 when he scored four wins and made it to the Championship 4.

Hocevar’s speed made him a hot commodity in the NASCAR world, and he accepted a deal with Spire to skip over the Xfinity Series and go straight to Cup. At age 21, he is one of the youngest drivers in the field.

Now, after Berry’s long climb and Hocevar’s rapid ascent to the top level of NASCAR, the two drivers find themselves reaching for the same goals. Not only are they battling for Rookie of the Year, they are also trying to secure a place for themselves in the Cup Series for the long term.

That’s a big challenge for any up-and-coming driver, but it could be especially tricky for Berry and Hocevar. Neither was part of a driver development program, groomed to take…

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