Beard Motorsports Daytona Advance for Noah Gragson

Event Overview


Wednesday, Feb. 10:  Daytona 500 qualifying (single-lap qualifying to determine pole for the Daytona 500)

●  Time/TV/Radio: 7 p.m. ET on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio


Thursday, Feb. 11:  Duel at Daytona (twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the field for the Daytona 500)

●  Time/TV/Radio: 7 p.m. ET on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio 


Sunday, Feb. 14:  63rd annual Daytona 500 (first of 36 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series races in 2021)

●  Time/TV/Radio: 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio


Notes of Interest


●  Beard Motorsports enters this year’s Daytona 500 solemnly but with a tremendous amount of pride in the contributions its founder and president, Mark Beard Sr., made to his family, his friends, his businesses and his favorite endeavor – NASCAR. Mr. Beard passed away on Jan. 31. He was passionate about racing and the businesses he built with his family, and even though he will be terribly missed, his work ethic and kind heart lives on with the many people he influenced. While the family has requested privacy, Beard Motorsports’ commitment to compete in this year’s Daytona 500 is unwavering and the team will race in Mr. Beard’s honor.


●  The 2021 Daytona 500 will also serve as a passing of the torch from one Las Vegas driver to another. Brendan Gaughan, a Las Vegas native who made 17 NASCAR Cup Series starts in Beard Motorsports’ No. 62 Chevrolet, hand-picked Noah Gragson to take over the No. 62 after retiring at the end of last season. Gaughan has known Gragson for all of his 22 years and has seen him rise from regional racing in the Southwest to national NASCAR touring series competition that will soon include the NASCAR Cup Series.


●  Beard Motorsports has proven to be the little team that could, a modern-day David competing against the Goliaths of the NASCAR Cup Series. The family-owned organization has taken a strategic approach to its racing endeavors, forming a technical partnership with Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and running only the superspeedway races at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. With cars constructed by RCR and powered by ECR-built engines, Beard Motorsports can race at the front, a fact proven by Gaughan’s two top-10s in 2020 – seventh in the Daytona 500 and eighth in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, also at Daytona.


●  Gragson will make his unofficial NASCAR Cup Series debut at 12:05 pm. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 10 when he drives the No. 62 Beard Oil Distributing Chevrolet Camaro onto Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval for the first practice session of 2021. Following that 50-minute practice will be single-lap qualifying for the Daytona 500, where the two fastest cars will be locked into the 40-car field.


●  Qualifying sets the field for the Duel – twin 150-mile qualifying races that determines the starting grid for the 63rd Daytona 500. Odd-numbered drivers are in the first Duel and even-numbered drivers are in the second Duel. Collectively, 44 drivers will vie for just 40 spots.


●  For drivers like Gragson, earning a spot in the Daytona 500 will come one of two ways – be one of the two fastest independent teams in qualifying, or race your way into the Daytona 500 by way of the Duel. There are only four open spots in the Daytona 500 for independent teams, and there are eight drivers going for those four spots. Chartered NASCAR teams hold the other 36 positions, giving them a guaranteed starting spot for the Daytona 500 and every race on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule. A team that holds a charter is akin to a franchise, the way the Las Vegas Raiders and the Vegas Golden Knights are to the NFL and NHL, respectively.


●  Gragson and Beard Motorsports obviously want to outperform 39 other drivers but, more specifically, the seven drivers racing for the other independent teams looking to make the Daytona 500. They are Kaz Grala with Kaulig Racing, Austin Cindric with Team Penske, David Ragan with Front Row Motorsports, Ryan Preece with JTG Daugherty Racing, Chad Finchum with MBM Motorsports, Timmy Hill with MBM Motorsports and Ty Dillon with Gaunt Brothers Racing. Only four of these drivers will compete in the 63rd Daytona 500.


●  Gragson is new to the NASCAR Cup Series, but he is not new to NASCAR or Daytona. In fact, Gragson won last year’s season-opening NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona. Gragson is a full-time Xfinity Series driver for JR Motorsports, and he comes into the 2021 Daytona 500 after a strong sophomore season in the Xfinity Series where he scored two wins – Daytona in February and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in June – earned 17 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes, and led 622 laps.


●  Before joining the Xfinity Series fulltime in 2019, Gragson competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2017 and 2018. He won twice – Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in October 2017 and Kansas Speedway in May 2018 – and finished second in the 2018 championship. Those Truck Series results were a continuation of the kind of talent Gragson showcased in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. In 2015 and 2016, Gragson raced in this developmental league, regionally split into two divisions – K&N Pro Series East and K&N Pro Series West. Gragson won six races between the two entities and narrowly missed out on the 2015 West title by a scant seven points.


Noah Gragson, Driver of the No. 62 Beard Oil Distributing Chevrolet Camaro



This is your first race with Beard Motorsports and while you didn’t get a chance to know its founder, Mark Beard Sr., you’ve seen what he’s built. What does it mean to represent his legacy at Daytona?

“It’s very impressive to see this team go out and compete against these big teams that have 500, 600 employees. There’s one employee at Beard Motorsports, Darren Shaw. He’s there in the shop full-time. He’s the crew chief and he sets the car up, puts the whole thing together, puts the motor in – the guy does it all. And they’ve had some really good runs. Obviously, Brendan Gaughan is a great racecar driver and he’s been able to drive that car up to the lead at these superspeedway races. It’s just very impressive to see what they’re able to do and I feel very fortunate to be able to work with them.”


You and Gaughan are both Las Vegas natives who have known each other a long time. What insights has he given you in regard to competing at Daytona and driving for Beard Motorsports?

“It started off as, ‘You need to go ride and take your time and just be there at the end,’ but now it’s transitioned into Mrs. Beard giving me the thumbs up to go. She told me to ‘drive the piss out of it.’ Those were her exact words. I’m excited because I feel like that’s more of my driving style. It’s definitely going to be a new challenge, a new opportunity. There’s going to be adversity, but I know the car will be strong and, hopefully, I’ll be able to adapt sooner rather than later with the package for the Cup car being so much different from the Xfinity car. I’m confident in my ability at superspeedway racing. In fact, I’m a lot more confident than I was at this time last year. I’ve been able to run up front at these superspeedway races, lead laps at pretty much all of them, win stages, and I won the race at Daytona last year in the Xfinity Series. It’s going be a great opportunity. I’ve been dreaming of it my whole, entire life to make a Cup start and, now, I have that opportunity and it’s all thanks to the Beard family and Brendan and all the partners involved.”


Gaughan finished seventh in last year’s Daytona 500 driving for Beard Motorsports. Have you watched that race to see what he did to position himself to earn such a strong result?

“I watched last year’s Duel. I think Denny Hamlin did a good job in the first Duel in the way he got shuffled to the back and was able to leapfrog his way up. Just looking for small things like that. The Duel is going to be very important. Hopefully, we get a good qualifying lap in and we’re able to lock ourselves in, but you have to plan for the worst in this sport. Just being fully prepared in all avenues is the most important thing for me. You can never watch enough film, especially at superspeedway racing. There are some really good guys out there.”


Your fulltime job is racing for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series where your car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is one of the best superspeedway racers NASCAR has ever seen. What advice has he provided as you prepare to make the Daytona 500?

“I was always the guy to ride around in the back, save your car to the end of the race. Dale said, ‘Screw that,’ and he told me that I needed to go out there and have the mentality of almost like going out to GoPro Motorplex or any go-kart track around the country, where you’re beating and banging and somehow everybody ends up finishing the race even when you’re super aggressive. He said, ‘Do whatever you’ve got to do to be up front and do whatever you’ve got to do to just be able to learn how to pass. Learn your car. Use the first three-quarters of the race to learn your racecar, try to make moves. If you fall back and you get to the tail of the line, who really cares? Just learn because you’re going to want that knowledge for later in the race.’ So, I did that last year at Daytona and I think there was a significant difference in the way the stats were at the end of the race. I had a different approach this past year in 2020 and had the most success ever. Just being aggressive, not really daring, just learning the car with a wreckers or checkers mentality.”


You’ve competed at Daytona and Talladega in the Xfinity Series and in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. What can you take from those experiences and apply to racing in the NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona?

“It’s a completely different mindset. Before, it was just ride around and hope you finish the race. Now, I go out there and it’s full-send mode. It’s checkers or wreckers every single lap from the drop of the green flag. That’s what you have to do. You have to be aggressive to learn your racecar so you know what you have and what you need to do for the end of the race when it’s actually time to go.”


Racing for an independent team with no guaranteed starting spot means you have to balance speed with self-preservation. How do you run up front in the Duel and make sure you keep a straight racecar and are there at the finish?

“You always have to be patiently aggressive, just trying to stay ahead of things and trying to put yourself in good positions. I’m going to drive my ass off just to do my best job and be aggressive from the start of the Duel. Hopefully, we’re locked in and that’ll mean a different approach, but you’ve got to be on it from the drop of the green flag.”


Beard Motorsports PR