Beard Motorsports has selected Noah Gragson to drive its No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro in the 63rd running of the Daytona 500 Feb. 14 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
Upon qualifying for The Great American Race, the event will mark Gragson’s NASCAR Cup Series debut, and it will come at the same venue where the 22-year-old racer from Las Vegas scored his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory. Gragson won the Xfinity Series’ 2020 season opener last February at Daytona for JR Motorsports.
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 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 encompass the elite NASCAR Cup Series.
“I loved racing for the Beard Family and even though I’m retired, I’m honored to be a part of their team and I’m very protective of what they’ve built,” Gaughan said. “I’ve known Noah a long time and I know he’s a very good racecar driver who is ready to do some Cup racing.
“Just as importantly, he takes good care of his equipment and he’s there at the end of races. In his entire Xfinity Series career, he’s only had four DNFs. That’s important no matter who you’re racing for, but it’s especially important for Beard Motorsports.
“I’m proud to see Noah have this opportunity and proud to see another Las Vegas guy in the NASCAR Cup Series.”
Gragson comes into the 2021 Daytona 500 after a strong sophomore season in the Xfinity Series where he scored two wins, earned 17 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes, and led 622 laps.
“I’m excited and humbled to have this opportunity with Beard Motorsports,” Gragson said. “As a young racer from Las Vegas, I had always dreamt of racing in the Daytona 500. I’m very appreciative of the faith the Beard Family and Brendan have in me, and equally appreciative to JR Motorsports for allowing me to pull double duty and compete for them in the Xfinity Series and also Beard Motorsports while we’re down in Daytona.”
Beard Motorsports has proven to be the little team that could, a modern-day David competing against the Goliaths of the NASCAR Cup Series. Owned by Mark Beard Sr., president of Beard Motorsports and various family businesses, Beard Motorsports 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 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 Gaugahn’s two top-10s in 2020 – seventh in the Daytona 500 and eighth in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, also at Daytona.
“Racing is our passion project,” said Beard, a former driver who made two Xfinity Series starts in the 1980s. “Even with Brendan’s retirement, we wanted to keep racing. We’ve accomplished a lot with the resources we have and we’re proud to give Noah the chance to chase his dream just like we chase ours.
“On top of that, racing has proven to be a very valuable asset for our companies, like Beard Oil Distributing. We’re very passionate about what we do, and the Daytona 500 is an excellent platform to show our customers the level of commitment we put into all of our work.”
Gragson will be only the second driver to race for Beard Motorsports, but both Beard and Gaughan believe Gragson is ready for the opportunity.
“Noah is in a really great position,” Gaughan said. “He’ll be in his third year of Xfinity with a strong team in JR Motorsports and he’ll get to sample and understand what the Cup Series is about. Every time you strap into a racecar it’s an opportunity to learn, but it’s also supposed to be fun. He’ll be able to do both with Beard Motorsports.”
Before joining the Xfinity Series fulltime in 2019, Gragson competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2017 and 2018. He won twice 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.
“When you’re racing Late Models and trying to work your way up, the Daytona 500 seems pretty far away,” Gragson said. “To have it become a reality is something I don’t take lightly. I’m ready for this moment and I’m proud to have it.”