Tanner Berryhill left without a ride for Daytona 500 as Obaika Racing withdraws

New Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team Obaika Racing made a 2019 sponsor announcement on Feb. 6 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., and still seemed prepared to contest the entire 2019 Cup Series schedule. But two days later, the team announced it was withdrawing from the season opener – the February 17 Daytona 500. The withdrawal leaves series Rookie of the Year candidate Tanner Berryhill without a car to drive in the first race of the season.

“Adding Wave Sports as a year-long partner was a huge boost to our program, and they will be a very important part of our future efforts,” a statement from the race team on Friday read. “We continued with the Wednesday, Feb. 6, press conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame with great optimism about our program coming together in time to make it to Daytona International Speedway. Even though that did not work out, we are still very thankful to Wave Sports for continuing their support.

"The team still has big plans for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. We will compete in as many events as possible, and we will announce our 2019 debut race as soon as possible.”

Obaika Racing made its Cup Series debut at Texas Motor Speedway last year, the third-to-last race of the season, and competed in the final three races of the year, the last two of those with Berryhill as driver. Those two races were Berryhills on Cup Series races, to this point. He posted a best finish of 31st in his debut at ISM Raceway.

Soon after the conclusion of the 2018 season, the race team announced plans to enter its No. 97 in all Cup Series races in 2019 with Berryhill as driver.

“It is no secret that this is a very small team with limited resources,” Obaika's recent statement read. “This is also a very new team to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The No. 97 team has worked very hard through the winter to prepare cars and to secure funding for the 2019 season, and things did not come together as quickly as hoped or needed. The odds of making the Daytona 500 did not seem reasonable enough to stretch our resources, so the team feels that our assets can best be put towards a future race.”

After the announcement of the Daytona withdrawal, Berryhill expressed his disappointed on Twitter.

“I’ve written about a thousand different things I’d like to share, but I just can’t seem to put something together other than I’m devastated,” Berryhill [@TannerBerryhill] tweeted. “What I thought and hoped was the opportunity of a lifetime wasn’t. #Daytona500.”