Noah Gragson to attempt next month’s Daytona 500

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NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Noah Gragson will attempt to make his Cup debut in next month’s Daytona 500 with Beard Motorsports, the team announced Thursday.

Gragson will drive the No. 62 Chevrolet. The team does not have a charter and is not guaranteed a starting spot.

If he makes the Daytona 500, his debut at NASCAR’s top level will come one day after opening his 2021 Xfinity season for JR Motorsports.

The story was first reported Dec. 23 by Catchfence.com.

The 22-year-old Gragson takes over the No. 62 entry from fellow Las Vegas native Brendan Gaughan, who ended his NASCAR career following last October’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Gaughan drove in a part-time role for Beard Motorsports, primarily on superspeedways, from 2017-20. During that span, he recorded four top-10 finishes, including two last season at the Daytona 500 (seventh) and the regular-season finale at Daytona (eighth).

“I’m excited and humbled to have this opportunity with Beard Motorsports,” Gragson said in a team release. “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.”

Gragson earned his first career Xfinity win in the 2020 season opener at Daytona. He went on to add another victory at Bristol in June and finish fifth in the season standings.

“Noah is in a really great position,” said Gaughan, a long-time acquaintance of Gragson, in the same release. “He’ll be in his third year of Xfinity with a strong team in JR Motorsports, and he’ll get to sample and understand what the Cup Series is about.

“Every time you strap into a race car, it’s an opportunity to learn, but it’s also supposed to be fun. He’ll be able to do both with Beard Motorsports.”

Entry lists for Talladega playoff weekend

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NASCAR’s playoffs continue this weekend on its largest oval track, Talladega Superspeedway.

All three national series will be competing on the 2.66-mile track.

More: Las Vegas winners and losers

Here are the preliminary entry lists for Talladega:

Cup – YellaWood 500 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine cars are entered.

Brendan Gaughan is entered in Beard Motorsports’ No. 62 Chevrolet for his final start of the year and his NASCAR career.

Justin Haley is now entered in Spire Motorsports’ No. 77 Chevrolet.

Ryan Blaney has won the last two Cup races at Talladega.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Xfinity – Ag-Pro 300 (4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-five cars are entered.

AJ Allmendinger is entered in Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Chevrolet.

No driver is listed on SS Green Light Racing’s No. 07 Chevrolet.

Justin Haley won at Talladega in June over Ross Chastain and Jeb Burton.

Tyler Reddick won this race last year over Gray Gaulding and Christopher Bell.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Trucks – Chevrolet Silverado 250 (1 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered.

Natalie Decker is on the entry list after she missed Friday’s Las Vegas race due to not being medically cleared.

Trevor Bayne is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 45 truck for the fourth time this season.

Spencer Boyd won this race last year over Todd Gilliland and Riley Herbst.

Click here for the entry list.

Winners and losers after Daytona regular-season finale

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A look at the winners and losers from Saturday’s night’s Cup regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway.

WINNERS

William ByronScores his first career Cup points win and does it at Daytona in the regular-season finale to advance to the playoffs. He joins Jeff Gordon as the only drivers to win a Cup race in the No. 24 car.

Brendan GaughanFinishes eighth for Beard Motorsports in what is expected to be his final Cup start at Daytona. He finished seventh in the Daytona 500 so he’ll go out with top 10s in both races there this season.

Bubba Wallace His fifth-place finish is his third career top five in Cup. He has two such finishes at Daytona and the other at Indianapolis.

Matt DiBenedetto He seemed to be in a safe spot to make the playoffs a couple of weeks ago before his team struggled. He overcame challenges Saturday to earn his first playoff bid and the first playoff bid for Wood Brothers Racing since 2017 with Ryan Blaney.

LOSERS

Tyler Reddick His failed slide job led to a 10-car crash late in the race. Reddick took the blame. Some drivers were not happy with Reddick. Kyle Busch said: “Slide job gone bad. … I saw him coming and even checked up and we still ran into each other.” Ryan Newman said: “The 8 car obviously just ran out of talent.”

Jimmie JohnsonHe won’t get a chance to race for a record eighth Cup title. Johnson finished six points behind Matt DiBenedetto for the final playoff spot. He fells short in a season where his runner-up car was disqualified after the Coke 600, and he missed the Brickyard 400 because of a positive COVID-19 test. He was collected in a late crash Saturday ending his title hopes. That leaves Johnson focused not on a championship but trying to win a race before the season ends.

What drivers said after Cup regular-season finale

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William Byron – winner: “I had confidence in (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and the guys that we could get four tires and make the most of it. So, I’m just extremely blessed, and this is incredible. It’s been a hard couple of years in the Cup Series and trying to get my first win and gel with this team. These guys did an awesome job today and got us in the Playoffs and it’s amazing.”

(How intense was it racing Jimmie Johnson and Matt DiBenedetto?) “This is probably the hardest track to points-race. We had a great Stage 2 and kind of got back in the pack and got shuffled when everyone went single file. I thought my hopes were up there. And we were racing around the No. 21 (Matt DiBenedetto) and the No. 48 (Johnson) in the final stage and I was like ‘Man, I’ve got to really make something happen.’ Luckily, I was able to push the No. 43 (Bubba Wallace) and he and the No. 22 (Joey Logano) made some contact and opened up a hole for me, and I wasn’t going to lift. It was awesome. Thanks to Liberty University, Chevrolet, and it’s amazing.”

Chase Elliott – finished 2nd: “It was pretty wild from my seat. I was surprised it took us as long as it did to wreck, for sure. But I’m really proud of our Hooters team. I feel like we had faster Chevrolet’s than we’ve had in the last couple of trips, which was good. It didn’t drive as good as I think it probably should have, but I do think we were better by a pretty large margin, so that was nice. Congratulations to William (Byron) – getting your first win is something he’ll never forget and that’s a really special moment for him. He’s worked really hard for that. I’m happy for him, Chad (Knaus) and all of the 24 team. They’ve done a good job.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 3rd: “Just disappointed. I didn’t do a good job. Lack of focus or whatever it is. Not executing. If you have control of a green-white-checkered on a speedway, most of the time the win is going to come from the front row and you have to just make sure you make the right moves and I just didn’t after I took the green. I don’t know what I was doing and I didn’t have a push from the 21 (Matt DiBenedetto) and I was clear of the 24 (William Byron) and just didn’t pull down. I don’t know what I was doing. Disappointing, but I guess we escaped some mayhem, we were in some mayhem. Just a crazy race. Just everyone kind of out there for themselves and all the pushing and shoving and body-slamming and what not. Decent finish, but I hate having control and not finishing.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished 4th: “We got ourselves in position there at the white flag and made a run through the tri-oval and got to the outside of the leader there. The 14 (Clint Bowyer) and those guys that were behind me, they were my pushers and they crashed. As soon as they wrecked behind me, I realized that I lost all my help and it was going to be tough from there on out. Then the 9 (Chase Elliott) just pushed the 24 (William Byron) back by us and ended up barely hanging onto fourth. Overall, it was a really good night. Our Bass Pro Toyota had a lot of speed and we passed a lot of cars at the end. We had to pit twice there at the end on those two cautions because we flat-spotted our tires and ran over all kinds of debris. To be able to come through the field in a short amount of laps was a lot of fun. Always nice when you leave here in one piece.”

Bubba Wallace – finished 5th: “A win was there and then it wasn’t. On to the next one.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 6th: “We worked pretty well together, (Joey Logano) and I, the first couple stages there and then we kind of got shuffled back once or twice, and then we were kind of mired in the back and everyone was three-wide, you can’t go anywhere, and then my job was just not getting in a wreck. I missed a couple of them and then had a decent run at the end. We had some good momentum going on the last couple laps and some big blocks and we kind of got stacked up and never kept our momentum going, but, overall, not a bad night for our strawberry banana BodyArmor Ford Mustang. It was bright, but came home clean.  We got DiBenedetto in the playoffs, which is good for that group, and looking forward to the next 10 weeks. It should be a lot of fun.”

Alex Bowman – finished 7th: “Super pumped for William (Byron) and the entire No. 24 team. Really cool to see them get the win. Bummed for Jimmie at the same time. It is a big mix of emotions there for Jimmie to miss it. Overall, not a bad day for the No. 88 team. Had a really fast car, didn’t drive really well though. I have no clue how we didn’t crash some of those times. We got really lucky there at the end and ended up with a solid top-10 finish.”

Brendan Gaughan – finished 8th: “The Beard Oil Distributing Chevrolet Camaro had a heck of a run tonight. We saw pay dirt there at the end – third place coming out of turn four. The 19 car just side drafted us and pulled us back. I didn’t have any help behind me but what a night. I just have to say thank you so much to the Beard family, Darren Shaw (crew chief) and Ron Lewis, my spotter. I also want to say thank you to Richard Childress and ECR motors for all they do for us. Two top-10s this year at Daytona – what a way to go out. It was so much fun. We will see everyone in Talladega and we’ll actually be able to take the same racecar because it’s in one piece.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 10th: “It’s good to be in a good spot for the playoffs.  We have a lot of bonus points and obviously we wanted more than what we have, but we’re allowed to be greedy.  All in all, a good finish for us.  It was not the most fun night, but we’ll take it with our PIRTEK Ford and move on to Darlington and hopefully have great runs in the playoffs and get that second championship.”

John Hunter Nemechek – finished 11th: “I’ll take P11 for our No. 38 FAS Ford Mustang after all that. It was a wild end to the day, but I’m super proud of my guys for all of their effort and hard work. We had a pretty decent setup and made a few adjustments during the night that helped get us in a position to have a good result. We got caught up at the end in a wreck with some heavy right side damage, but my guys on pit road rallied and we were able to keep rolling to get a good finish for our partners at FAS. Overall it was a good points day for us, so we’ll take what notes we can and move on to the next one.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished 12th: “It was too eventful.  I’m mentally worn out. I’m gonna sleep great tonight, but there was so much going on there at the end. First off, I’m so happy for this team and Menards, Dutch Boy, the whole Menard family, Motorcraft/Quick Lane and the Wood Brothers, Ford, our alliance with Team Penske. You name it. This means so much to get this for them, but in the race there if I could I hedged toward being on the bottom because, man, just when you’re in the bottom and the top it’s nearly a sure thing when you get that you get crashed, so I’m glad we were able to take it home because I wasn’t happy with the finish, but I came in here saying all that mattered I just wanted to make these playoffs and the finishing position didn’t matter too much.”

Michael McDowell – finished 14th: “Not the result that we wanted tonight, but our CarParts.com Ford Mustang was really fast. It sucked up really good in the draft and I was able to get up in the Top-10 and stay there pretty easily, but just got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. You know, that’s Daytona and it happens, but I’m just really proud of everybody at Front Row Motorsports. It wasn’t the finish that we had hoped for, but we still got a Top-15 finish with a crashed car. The speed that we had was some of the best that we’ve had on a superspeedway in a really long time, so I’m just really proud of everybody. Thank you to CarParts.com and CARDONE Industries for coming on board.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 17th: “First and foremost, congratulations to my teammate getting his first Cup win like that. This setting and the drama to go with it – that’s a big win for Chad Knaus and William Byron. I’m really happy for those guys. I really felt like we had a way to transfer, to win, or point our way in the way it went in the first two stages. Things just got ugly down in turn one. Unfortunate, but that’s plate racing.”

Austin Dillon – finished 25th: “We had a fast Dow VORASURF Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Even though we had to start at the back of the field, we were able to work our way into the top five and we had speed and handling. Things were getting exciting with less than 15 laps to go. I thought there was going to be a big one and I was going to be in the clear but it didn’t work out that way. I was on the high line and had nowhere to go when everyone started crashing in front of me. I should have known better. If you stay on the bottom you have an out. We ended up with a lot of damage to our Chevy and survived several additional end-of-race wrecks to nurse it home to a 25th-place finish.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 26th: “We had a really good CommScope Toyota tonight. We were really looking forward to this race and it was a lot of fun while it lasted. I was able to drive to the front in the middle part of the race and led laps for a while before we needed to save fuel. We were able to get through the first wreck without any significant damage, but there was just no way to avoid the second one. It’s a shame because we had a really good racecar. I’m proud of everybody who was involved in getting us ready for this race. We ran up front, so that felt really good. I think we have some good momentum to take to the last 10 races.”

Joey Logano – finished 27th: “It’s just superspeedway racing. It gets so intense at the end and everyone is pushing so hard. It’s one of those situations you’re so close to the front you’ve got to stay in it and keep going for it and try to get the lead. I got a good run off the top side. We had (Bubba Wallace) pushing enough to clear (Denny Hamlin) and I knew I could do that, which we did. I was hoping I could get back up in front of (Wallace), which we did and then (Hamlin) got me just off-centered a little bit. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just superspeedway racing  It’s hard pushing and it got me in the right-rear and turned me to the right and ran me into Bubba and that cut down my right-rear tire by the time I got to turn one and you can’t control it and spun out in front of the whole field. Thanks to NASCAR we have safe cars and Team Penske for building something safe. I’m okay. The good news is we’re ready for the playoffs.”

Tyler Reddick – finished 29th: “My spotter, Derek Kneeland, and crew chief, Randall Burnett did a great job calling a race that got me up towards the front with 10 laps to go. I tried to make a move for the lead with about eight laps to go, and it didn’t work out like I planned. It unfortunately hurt our car and chance to win. I was clear for about a second when I went to make it, but it’s Daytona and things change quickly. There weren’t a lot laps left at that time, and you have to do what you can to try to win to make the playoffs.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 32nd: “I think the race kind of played out similar to what we thought it was going to. Starting in the back, we decided we would just kind of cruise in our Kroger Camaro. It was nice running the bottom there in that final stage with the 9 (Chase Elliott) and the 88 (Alex Bowman) behind us. I felt like we were making headway, got up beside the 18 (Kyle Busch) for the lead and it was tough with the 18 and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) together. But I thought with us, the 9 and the 88, I thought that we could keep our momentum up. Something happened behind them and they got shuffled and separated from me. Then there at the end, we were just running the top lane. It looked like the 8 (Tyler Reddick) tried to pull a slider, didn’t quite have him cleared and we all just kind of bunched up. Our Kroger Camaro was fast again. I had a lot of fun, but it sucks not to get the finish out of it.”

Kyle Busch – finished 33rd: “Slide job gone bad. I just hate it for these Interstate Batteries guys. We had a good Camry all night long and made our way to the front multiple times and we were leading a lot of laps there. Just waiting for the end, for business to pick-up and I guess business was starting to pick-up, but just not clear. I saw him coming and even checked up and we still ran into each other.”

Kurt Busch – finished 34th: “We were just digging on the bottom – I thought that was the best spot to be. Our Monster Energy Chevy was fast and we were all in the right spot, I thought, for what we needed to get done. Just got clipped from behind and our day is done. But, all-in-all, we’ve been coming together as a team – we just haven’t had the results to show it. I like the clarity and focus that we have on the No. 1 car heading into the Playoffs. It’s been a consistent season all the way until these last few, but now it’s time. Now we have to lay down everything we’ve got with Darlington, Richmond and Bristol coming up.”

Erik Jones – finished 35th: “I mean, he (Tyler Reddick) wasn’t clear. Kyle (Busch) let him in, number one, to not cause a wreck and then he ran into the wall and wrecked everybody behind him. It’s frustrating. He had way too much speed to try to make that move up the hill with the grip that is left in the tires. We had a lot of laps on them. It’s unfortunate. He wrecked us a Pocono, and then to have this happen, you know, two times making racing moves that were not going to work out. Unfortunately, it was to the determent of us today. The Auto Owners Camry was pretty fast. We were up front. I think we were running third when we got wrecked, so we had a shot. We needed to win — we were there, we just didn’t get it done.”

Ryan Newman – finished  36th : “(Reddick) obviously just ran out of talent.  It seems like you can win a couple of Xfinity championships and still stick your head where the sun don’t shine when the time comes right.  I’m just disappointed.  It was kind of an average race sitting there waiting with our Guaranteed Rate Ford and never got a chance to show how good a car we had.”

 

Spencer Davis cleared to race after COVID-19 recovery

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After testing positive for COVID-19 last week, Truck Series driver Spencer Davis has been cleared to return to racing after missing just once race, Davis confirmed on social media Wednesday.

Davis had to have two negative COVID-19 tests more than 24 hours apart in order to be cleared to race.

Davis, 21, was the third NASCAR driver to test positive for the virus, joining Jimmie Johnson (who missed one race) and part-time driver Brendan Gaughan. 

Davis, who owns his Truck Series team, missed last weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway and will return to the track for Sunday’s race on the Daytona International Speedway road course (Noon ET on FS1). He will start 31st.