The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year battle will see another face. On Monday evening, Tanner Berryhill announced on SiriusXM radio show Late Shift that he would run full-time in the series, driving the #97 for Obaika Racing. Sponsorship and a crew chief have not been announced.
“Tanner is a very intelligent and motivated young man, and I am very excited to what he can accomplish during his rookie season,” team owner Victor Obaika stated in a press release. “The Obaika Racing team is working hard through the winter to put fast cars on track next year, and I have every confidence that Tanner is going to work hard to improve every race and get the most out of our equipment. 2019 is going to be a great year for this team.”
In October 2018, Berryhill joined Obaika’s for the Xfinity Series race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval in what was supposed to be his first NASCAR national series start since 2014, but he failed to qualify after mechanical problems plagued his car. A month later, he made his Cup Series debut with the team at ISM Raceway, where he finished thirty-first, followed by a thirty-eighth-place run at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The ISM race was not Berryhill’s first run in a Cup car. In 2015, he attempted to run his first Cup race at the track with Premium Motorsports, but did not qualify.
A Bixby, Oklahoma native and dirt track veteran, Berryhill has 40 career Xfinity starts between 2012 and 2014, with the latter marking his lone full-time campaign in the series. Driving the #17 for Vision Racing, he recorded a best career finish of seventeenth at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and finished the year twenty-second in points.
“I am very thankful for the opportunities that Victor Obaika, the whole race team, and our partners are giving me, and I’m looking forward to making the most of it,” Berryhill said in the release. “It’s a dream come true to be racing full-time again, and I’m excited to see this program continue to grow. Thank you to everyone who made this possible, and I’ll see you in Daytona (International Speedway)!”
Obaika expanded his Xfinity team, which was formed in 2015, to the Cup Series in fall 2018, debuting at Texas Motor Speedway with David Starr after missing the Talladega Superspeedway race. In 78 total Xfinity starts between 2015 and 2017, the team’s best finish is sixteenth with Peyton Sellers at the 2015 Daytona July race.