The NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale is on Saturday, August 27. The Coke Zero Sugar 400 will take place at Daytona International Speedway and will feature the return of a small, fan-favorite team.
Beard Motorsports, the Cup Series organization run by Linda Beard, will make its third start of the Next Gen era. Noah Gragson will once again take over the No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro after posting the fastest qualifying time among non-chartered teams at the Daytona 500.
Gragson also controlled the No. 62 Beard Motorsports entry during the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. He started 31st in the Wendy’s-sponsored Chevrolet Camaro, and he avoided on-track incidents en route to a 20th-place finish. This run still stands as his second-best finish of the Cup Series season.
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Gragson Will Not Have to Outduel Other Drivers
The last two times Gragson headed to Daytona International Speedway, he did not have a guaranteed spot in the race. He first tried to qualify for the 2021 Daytona 500, but a crash during the Blue Green Vacation 150 Duel led to him and Beard Motorsports missing the Crown Jewel race.
One year later, Gragson returned to Daytona. This time, he took care of business in a different manner. He posted the 33rd-fastest lap during qualifying, but it was the best of the teams without charters. This guaranteed that the No. 62 would suit up for the season-opening race, and it checked off a major goal for Gragson and the family-run team.
“It’s really emotional to be able to make the race after last year coming so close and went through adversity during qualifying last year and not being able to take time,” Gragson told NASCAR Media in February. “Before the Duel last year, Ms. Beard said to just go out there and drive the piss out of it. So she told me that tonight before qualifying, too. Last year, not being able to make the race, it’s almost that much sweeter and you appreciate it that much more.”
The 2022 Coke Zero Sugar 400 will feature a different qualifying session. There are only 37 cars on the initial entry list, so Gragson will not have to post faster laps than any other open teams. Instead, he can just focus on trying to secure a strong starting position.
Gragson Showcased Speed During His First Daytona 500
Beard Motorsports is one of the smallest operations in NASCAR — it only has one employee — but the team certainly knows how to contend during the trips to superspeedways.
Beard Motorsports entered the 2022 season with four top-10s courtesy of Brendan Gaughan, three of which were at Daytona International Speedway. Gragson then put them in a position to walk away with another prior to an on-track incident in the final stage.
The Las Vegas native started the day 39th overall, but he avoided an incident on Lap 64 before working his way up to 12th in Stage 1. He raced in the 14th position during Stage 2, but a scheduled pit stop dropped him back to 22nd.
The final stage featured Gragson racing inside the top 10 on two different occasions. He worked his way up to eighth by Lap 142 before stopping for fuel. He restarted 14th but worked his way back into the top 10 once again with 10 laps remaining. Though an incident on Lap 191 sent Gragson into the wall and ended his day.
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