By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
A passing of the torch between two Las Vegas natives has been established as Beard Motorsports announced Thursday that Noah Gragson will replace the retired Brendan Gaughan in the No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for next month’s Daytona 500.
This will be the 22-year-old Xfinity Series standout’s first attempt to qualify for a Cup race as he’ll be among several drivers who’ll look to take one of the four available spots and be among the 40 drivers competing in the 63rd renewal of “The Great American Race.”
“I’m excited and humbled to have this opportunity with Beard Motorsports,” said Gragson. “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.
“When you’re racing Late Models and trying to work your way up, the Daytona 500 seems pretty far away. “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.”
Gaughan, who drove for the team the last four seasons, commented that he’ll forever be honored to drive for them and is excited to have a fellow Las Vegas native take over the known superspeedway squad.
“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,” said Gaughan. “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.”
Gaughan added that Gragson stands out is how he rarely retires from an Xfinity race, only having four DNFs in 69 previous starts. It’s the one thing the Mark Beard, Sr. operation values most.
“Just as importantly, he takes good care of his equipment and he’s there at the end of races,” said Gaughan. “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.”
Last season was the team’s most successful campaign which saw Gaughan bringing the ECR-built machine two top-10 finishes in both races at Daytona.
Despite Gaughan’s NASCAR career being over, Beard is still excited to continue his passion project with Gragson and expects to see his team blossom even more.
“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,” said Beard.
“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.”
As of right now, the Daytona 500 is the only confirmed race for the No. 62 team.
In the meantime, Gragson will be entering his third full season in Xfinity competition, driving for JR Motorsports’ No. 9 team where he’ll hope to capitalize a career season where he won both the spring race at Bristol and last February’s season opener at Daytona.
More importantly, make the Championship 4 in Phoenix after missing the cut last year, resulting him to finish no better than fifth in the final standings.