Beard Motorsports will represent the little teams with big dreams of competing in the Daytona 500 this Sunday.
For the third straight year, Brendan Gaughan put the No. 62 car into the season-opening event, this time racing his way in through the Gander RV Duel. Gaughan finished 15th, ahead of Casey Mears and Joey Gase, whom he had to beat.
While Gaughan is a NASCAR veteran, Beard will be making just its ninth start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The single-car operation runs only the four restrictor-plate races each season, with Gaughan using an old Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and ECR motor.
Making the Daytona 500 goes a long way for the group, led by crew chief Darren Shaw.
“Oh, it is extremely important to us because this is a big paying race,” a joyful Linda Beard told RACER. “This is where either you make it or you break it, you know? But it’s not only the money, it is the prestige of being able to make it, and that was our goal in life.
“Mark, my husband, is the one that had the vision for this, and we couldn’t do it without Darren, and we couldn’t do it without Brendan. It’s just a really big deal for our family, for our community, and all of our friends. We’ve made a lot of race fans back in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, let me tell you, and we love it.”
Beard said the small team works “really, really” hard to make things happen and focusing on four races a year works for them. The group was established in 2014 but failed to make the two races it attempted with Clay Rogers. Beard Motorsports did not attempt any races in 2015-16 before changing its approach and hiring Gaughan.
“My husband decided that we had to get to this level and if we were going to do anything we had to buy the best motors, we had to buy the best cars,” said Beard. “So, we made that commitment to do that with RCR and ECR. Mark had watched Brendan for a long time and liked what he saw, and so he mentioned this to a friend of ours that races against us, and he said, ‘I know Brendan really well.’ He called Brendan, and he told Brendan the scenario, and he’s at first going, no. Then he’s going, wait a minute, they’re going to do what? When he [Gaughan] found out what we were going to do, he and Mark made the deal.”
The first time the Beards met Gaughan was walking into the garage for their first race together, the 2017 Daytona 500. When Gaughan had qualified for that event, Linda Beard said she was jumping up and down while watching from home.
“You know when you meet somebody for the first time, and you just know that they’re the people that will click with you? That’s how it’s been with him, that’s how it’s been with his family,” said Beard. “We love them, and we love what they help us do, and we’re just having a great time. This was a hard one for us to get into, but I think that makes it that much sweeter.”
After making the Daytona 500, Gaughan — who received a hug from Richard Childress and high-fived all those around him — revealed it was the most nervous he’d been behind the wheel in a long time. For the last two years, Gaughan had been able to lock himself in on his qualifying speed. He too spoke of how important being in the Daytona 500 is for a team like Beard.
“They’re not trying to race all season and make money in this sport,” Gaughan said. “They want to race to win, and they give me a car that can, and we want to be here again like we were last year with a lap and a half to go.
“If I don’t win it, that’s OK. But I want to be in that pack with a lap and a half to go again like I was last year.”