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February 14, 2024

Anthony Alfredo, David Ragan earn guaranteed spots in 2024 Daytona 500


Anthony Alfredo gets emotional during an interview after locking into the Daytona 500.
Zach Sturniolo
NASCAR. com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Anthony Alfredo turned and dropped his jaw in pure elation. He fell into the arms of Brendan Gaughan, who ripped him into the air through joy.

With Alfredo behind the wheel, the No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet was the fastest non-chartered entry in Wednesday night’s Busch Light Pole Qualifying, locking into the 66th annual Daytona 500 for Monday afternoon (4 p.m. ET, FOX, FOX Deportes, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). David Ragan, piloting the No. 60 RFK Racing Ford, snagged the second guaranteed spot of the four available in the “Great American Race.”

Six non-chartered or “open” teams entered this year’s Daytona 500 alongside the 36 chartered teams, leaving 42 teams to vie for 40 positions. Alfredo and the Beard Motorsports team — an operation that has just one full-time employee, crew chief Darren Shaw — posted the 20th-fastest lap overall at 179.648 mph, relieving the No. 62 team of any worries ahead of Thursday night’s Bluegreen Vacations Duels that will set the starting lineup for the Daytona 500.

MORE: Joey Logano, Michael McDowell on front row for Daytona 500

“This is crazy,” Alfredo told NASCAR.com. “I mean, I was in the stands as a kid. This was my first race I came to. And to have the opportunity to race in it for a second time now is beyond a blessing. I can’t even put into words what this means to me, especially because as an open car, it’s just so much more stress on you. And there’s some really competitive cars here.

“And to know that we not only were (in) the top two but the best one — over Jimmie Johnson. I mean … I thought they were gonna be the ones to beat in qualifying.”

Indeed, seven-time Cup champion and Class of 2024 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Jimmie Johnson is one of the four drivers who will have to fight in Thursday’s duel qualifying race for the remaining two spots in the Daytona 500, joining JJ Yeley, BJ McLeod and Kaz Grala.

Linda Beard, team owner of Beard Motorsports, quickly joined the jubilant celebration on pit road, soaking in the moment as the team her late husband Mark built qualified for its sixth Daytona 500 appearance.

“It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s the greatest feeling there possibly is,” Beard told NASCAR.com. “Sometimes when you’ve done this before, you always wonder if it’s ever gonna happen again. It has, and I’m just so happy.”

The fun-loving, always-amped Gaughan serves Beard Motorsports as its vice chairman of racing operations and was the team’s driver from its inception in 2017 through 2020, never attempting more than four races per year after years of racing full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series. The emotions poured out Wednesday night after Alfredo locked into the Daytona 500.

“I mean, this is a little-bitty team,” Gaughan told NASCAR.com. “We always talked about it being the 62. It’s got one full-time employee with Darren Shaw, and we’ve talked about that for years. But this doesn’t happen in this sport anymore. That’s what I’ve always said is that you don’t see this sort of thing really. And when you’re talking about the world of $20 million charters and $40 million charters, here’s this team with one car. …

“You never know how good it feels to you miss one, right? And we’ve missed a couple.”

They won’t be missing this one.

In the No. 60 Ford, Ragan locked himself into the “Great American Race” with a lap at 179.283 mph. Ragan has been a mainstay in Ford’s camp since the start of his NASCAR career in 2004, joining RFK when it was still known only as Roush Racing in 2006. Now a part-time racer after 13 years racing full-time at the sport’s highest level, Ragan is back in the Daytona 500, a race in which he’s finished inside the top 10 in each of his last two starts (fourth, 2020; eighth, 2022).

“Initially I thought, ‘Man, we’re cutting this way too close,’ ” Ragan said of his lap. “I felt like we’d have a really fast race car, and we do. I really wasn’t expecting that lap from Anthony. That was a great lap for him and that team. Congratulations to those guys.

“I didn’t have a chance to beat Jimmie Johnson too often in my career when he and I were running week-in, week-out. I’ll take the small victories when I can.”

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