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Gragson and Beard Motorsports get another shot at Daytona

Noah Gragson returns to the site of his first NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend, this time with a fulltime ride on tap in 2023.

Noah Gragson, Beard Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Beard Motorsports/Southpoint

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

Earlier this month, Petty GMS Racing announced it had signed Gragson to a multi-year deal to drive is No. 42 Chevrolet in the Cup Series beginning next season.

Petty GMS officials said one of the benefits of adding Gragson – aside from his obvious talent on the track – was the fact he will join them with experience in the Next Gen car.

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Gragson, 24, has been running a partial Cup schedule this year in addition to his fulltime ride in the Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports. He has done 10 races so far with both Beard Motorsports (two) and Kaulig Racing (eight). His best finish thus far was 18th at Kansas.

Gragson returns to Beard’s No. 62 Chevrolet this week for Saturday night’s race at Daytona International Speedway. It was with Beard that Gragson made his Cup debut in the 2022 Daytona 500.

“The Beard Family gave me my first shot in Cup, Mr. and Mrs. Beard, Amie Beard and Mark Beard Jr. The whole family, you can’t say enough about them, they’ve really taken a chance on me,” Gragson said.

“Darren Shaw (crew chief), really, they’ve got one employee over there, so it’s pretty special to be able to go there and be competitive. I can’t thank Brendan Gaughan and the Beard family and Darren enough for the opportunity that they’ve given me to drive their car.

“Really, starting back at the beginning of 2021, they went out on a limb with Brendan retiring, and to be that next guy for them, it’s a privilege to be able to drive their car and, most importantly, I’m just very thankful for the relationship that I have with them and the memories we’ve made.”

A year before he made his official debut in this year’s 500, Gragson competed for Beard Motorsports in the lead up to the 2021 Daytona 500.

As a non-chartered team with no guaranteed starting spot in the Daytona 500, Beard had to race its way into the 40-car field via one of the 150-mile qualifying races. Unfortunately, Gragson was collected in a multi-car accident four laps short of his finish in his event and failed to advance.

With no qualifying at the other superspeedway races in 2021 due to an altered schedule promoted by COVID-19, Beard didn’t have the chance to race again until this season.

Gragson said the time in a Cup car with both Beard and Kaulig has been invaluable.

Noah Gragson, Beard Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Beard Motorsports/Southpoint

Noah Gragson, Beard Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Beard Motorsports/Southpoint

Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / Motorsport Images

“I know how raw I was getting into the Cup car to start the season and how much I’ve learned since then with more experience,” he said. “That’s definitely been a big help.

“And with these guys having a full season under their belt this year, if I were to hop in cold turkey next year, it’d definitely be a lot more challenging. But just getting the understanding of the car and how they feel and the level of competition, all of that has helped.”

In his two superspeedway races in Cup this season, Gragson was involved in a late-race wreck in the Daytona 500 and finished 20th at Talladega. He did win the Xfinity race at Talladega that same weekend.

So, what has he taken away from his Cup experience thus far on superspeedways?

“You can’t get caught up in the wreck, but you’ve got to stay in the draft. And especially the green-flag pit stops, they’re an opportunity to mess up, but you have to have fast pit stops,” Gragson said.

“The biggest struggle with superspeedway racing is just staying on the lead lap and making it to the end and having good pit strategies.”

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