The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season is quickly approaching, and with that, there are a handful of newcomers we ought to get to know before the green flag drops in February. Drivers Josh Berry, Zane Smith and Carson Hocevar will be running their first full-time seasons in the Cup Series next year, each with high expectations, bringing a unique skill set and winning aspirations to their new team. Let’s dive in and meet the rookie class.
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Josh Berry, No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
2023 ride: No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, Xfinity Series
2023 stats: 0 wins, 11 top fives, 18 top 10s, 211 laps led
2023 standings finish: 11th
To drive the No. 4 car comes along with a certain set of expectations, and at 33 years old, Berry will be the most seasoned rookie on the grid next year. He steps in to fill the seat that was left by Kevin Harvick, who retired at the end of the 2023 season. While Berry only has 12 cup starts in his career, he received first-hand experience filling in for Cup drivers in a variety of high-profile rides throughout the 2023 season. Whether it was splitting time between the Nos. 9 and 48 at Hendrick Motorsports or getting tapped by Legacy Motor Club for two races, Berry has been adaptable and demonstrated he can excel in the right car with a second-place finish at the Richmond spring race.
Secondly, his consistency over two full seasons in the Xfinity Series stands out. In his final two years with JR Motorsports, Berry raked in three wins, 22 top-five, and 38 top-10 finishes, showing he has a steady hand behind the wheel. With a background in short-track racing, Berry’s driving style is particularly agile and aggressive, which is a testament to how he handled Richmond like a pro this past year. His knack for maintaining focus and delivering consistent performance over a season positions him as a formidable competitor and the perfect fit for SHR as it looks to rebuild.
Zane Smith, No. 71 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
2023 ride: No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford, Craftsman Truck Series
2023 stats: 2 wins, 10 top fives, 10 top 10s, 227 laps led
2023 standings finish: 7th
Known for his success in the Truck Series, Smith has the championship pedigree to back up his move to the Cup Series. Trackhouse Racing invested in the phenom with a multi-year agreement for the 2022 Trucks Series champ and aims to expand its lineup in 2025 to add Smith. But before all that, Smith has a rookie year to complete. He gave us a preview of what to expect next year by competing in seven races with Front Row Motorsports on the Cup side in 2023, highlighted by one 10th-place finish at Charlotte in the spring.
Smith has displayed his talent and competitive drive throughout his career, from the ARCA Menards Series all the way to the Truck Series. He has totaled nine wins and 35 top-five finishes in 92 career starts in the Truck Series. Winning Sunoco Rookie of the Year has to be on top of his list of goals for his debut campaign, as he won Rookie of the Year in both the ARCA Menards Series (2018) and Truck Series (2020).
Carson Hocevar, No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
2023 ride: No. 42 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet, Craftsman Truck Series
2023 stats: 4 wins, 11 top fives, 13 top 10s, 271 laps led
2023 standings finish: 4th
Hocevar stepped in late in the 2023 season for Legacy Motor Club to compete in eight out of the 10 playoff races in the midst of his own championship hunt in the Truck Series. He adapted quite nicely, turning in five top-20 performances for a No. 42 team that struggled to regularly finish in the top 25 during the 2023 season. Most noteworthy is how Hocevar erupted for four wins and became a title contender in his third year in the Truck Series.
Hocevar is a rising talent with raw speed and showed he was ready to jump up to the Cup Series after a promising year in Trucks. Hocevar’s racing journey has led him to Spire Motorsports for next season, when he can embark on a path of professional growth – allowing him to collaborate with experienced team personnel such as teammate Corey LaJoie. Access to those resources should amplify his development as a driver while contributing success to an organization looking to grow and expand in the Cup Series.
Berry, Smith and Hocevar each bring different strengths and add depth to the competitive landscape of the NASCAR Cup Series. Their addition to the lineup of 2024 Cup drivers shapes the excitement and anticipation for the new season.