Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Noah Gragson to attempt Daytona 500 debut with Beard Motorsports

Beard Motorsports announced Thursday that NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Noah Gragson will drive its No. 62 Chevrolet in a bid for the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 14.

Gragson, who drives full-time in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, will attempt to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the 500-mile crown jewel (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM). The 22-year-old driver has already had success at Daytona International Speedway, claiming his first Xfinity triumph in last year’s season opener.

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The move keeps the organization’s connection to Las Vegas drivers intact. Brendan Gaughan retired from his part-time driving schedule with the Beard Motorsports group last year. According to the team’s publicists, the 45-year-old veteran was involved in selecting Gragson as his successor.

“I’m excited and humbled to have this opportunity with Beard Motorsports,” Gragson said in a team release. “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.”

Gragson returns for his third season in JRM’s No. 9 Chevy this year. Last season, he scored two victories (Daytona, Bristol) and advanced to the Round of 8 in the Xfinity Series Playoffs.

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Beard Motorsports, which shares a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, has focused its efforts on superspeedway events at Daytona and Talladega in recent years. Gaughan helped the No. 62 team cash in on those occasional starts, sweeping to top-10 finishes in both Daytona events last season.

“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 race car 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 becomes just the second driver in Beard Motorsports’ existence. The team has made just 17 Cup Series appearances since its 2017 debut, with all but a one-off road-course event last season happening at superspeedways. Gaughan netted top-10 results in four of those 17 starts.

“Racing is our passion project,” said team owner Mark Beard Sr. “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.”

Before his move to the Xfinity Series, Gragson was a two-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series. He finished runner-up in the 2018 standings. He also has seven wins in what is now called the ARCA Menards Series East and West tours, and has prestigious Late Model wins to his credit, including the 2017 Winchester 400 and the 2018 Snowball Derby.

“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.”