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NASCAR arrives in New Hampshire, but many minds already on 2025

Stewart-Haas Racing announced last month that it would cease operations at the season’s end, but the situation took a major turn on Thursday when part-owner Gene Haas decided to keep one of the organization’s charters and stay in NASCAR.

The formation of the Haas Factory Team means that one of the four lame-duck SHR drivers — Josh Berry, Noah Gragson, Chase Briscoe or Ryan Preece — could remain with Haas in 2025.

As NASCAR heads to New England for Race No. 18 on the Cup Series schedule, Sunday’s USA Today 301, the garage at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon should be teeming with discussion about 2025, especially after Martin Truex Jr. announced his retirement at year’s end.

Berry nearly put himself in a much more prominent position in those discussions with his showing Sunday at Iowa Speedway.

In his first season as the replacement for 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick, Berry, whose background is in short-track racing in the Atlantic region, took the lead with 90 laps to go in series’ first visit to Iowa. But he could not secure the win as Ryan Blaney took the checkered flag.

Though Berry, 33, and crew chief Rodney Childers are a strong package deal for any team, winning a race in a second-tier ride would have been eye-opening and made them a frontrunner for one of the open spots that could happen at Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing or the Wood Brothers.

A native of Hendersonville, Tenn., and a high school classmate of superstar entertainer Taylor Swift, Berry looked at the Iowa letdown and decided to shake it off.

“(That performance) is obviously what we’re capable of,” Berry said after finishing seventh and leading a career-high 32 laps. “Look, the reality of it is we’re all racing for our jobs. For me, I don’t know what else I can do besides win a race to prove I can race at this level.”

Gragson, driver of the No. 10 Ford, is still considered a hot shoe at 25 years old, and he’s enticing because he will bring Bass Pro Shops as a sponsor to wherever he lands.

The Las Vegas native is 24th in points and grids 14th among the long list of winless drivers. He sports one top-five finish and five top 10s and is 27 points behind SHR-leading Berry.

Potentially joining JGR would be nothing new to Gragson: He made his Xfinity Series debut as part of a three-race deal with the organization in 2018. And in 2022 while with JR Motorsports, he finished second in the Xfinity standings to champion Ty Gibbs, whom he would call a teammate if he goes to JGR.

Rumors have floated that a spot could open at RCR with Kyle Busch leaving (despite one year left on his contract) and rejoining JGR, but he addressed them last weekend.

“I would say anything is possible, always,” the two-time Cup champ said. “Certainly, if I was welcomed, I would go back (to JGR). If (Hendrick Motorsports) welcomed me back, I would go back. But right now, I’m at (RCR) with my group of guys, and the deal that I have right now in place.”

Truex won last year’s race at New Hampshire but has not found victory lane since. He came in 15th at Iowa days after making his retirement intentions public.

–Field Level Media

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