Noah Gragson ready for Cup series debut

TALLADEGA, AL - APRIL 26: Noah Gragson, driver of the #9 ARMOUR Vienna Sausage Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series MoneyLion 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 26, 2019 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Now retired from NASCAR racing, Brendan Gaughan has handed off his superspeedway driving duties to a fellow Las Vegas resident.

When the No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet takes to the track this week, Noah Gragson will be behind the wheel, preparing for his NASCAR Cup Series debut in Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The first Cup start for the full-time JR Motorsports Xfinity Series driver comes in the aftermath of the death of team owner Mark Beard Sr. on Jan. 31.

The original plan was for Gragson to race conservatively until the end of the Great American Race, but that changed recently.

“It started off as, ‘You need to go ride and take your time and just be there at the end,’ but now it’s transitioned into Mrs. (Linda) Beard giving me the thumbs up to go,” Gragson said. “She told me to ‘drive the piss out of it.’ Those were her exact words. I’m excited, because I feel like that’s more of my driving style.

“It’s definitely going to be a new challenge, a new opportunity. There’s going to be adversity, but I know the car will be strong and, hopefully, I’ll be able to adapt sooner rather than later with the package for the Cup car being so much different from the Xfinity car. I’m confident in my ability at superspeedway racing. In fact, I’m a lot more confident than I was at this time last year.

“I’ve been able to run up front at these superspeedway races, lead laps at pretty much all of them, win stages, and I won the race at Daytona last year in the Xfinity Series. It’s going be a great opportunity. I’ve been dreaming of it my whole, entire life to make a Cup start, and now I have that opportunity, and it’s all thanks to the Beard family and Brendan and all the partners involved.”

Greg Engle