Beard Motorsports carries on at Daytona 500 in honor of late patriarch of team and family

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Anthony Alfredo qualified for the Daytona 500 — no guarantee for the 24-year-old nicknamed “Fast Pasta” — and wrapped his arms tight around retired driver Brendan Gaughan for a bear hug.

Alfredo was hoisted high for a fleeting moment before his feet returned to pit road and the jubilation continued. He wiped away tears and hugged everyone he could find. Over the moon with joy, team owner Linda Beard and daughter Amie pulled in Alfredo for another embrace and shared a few congratulatory words.

Alfredo put Beard Motorsports back in NASCAR’s biggest spectacle. Yes, he did it for himself as he chases a full-time Cup ride, but also for the Beards and the late patriarch of the team and family, Mark Beard.

The one-car team races only a handful of times each season and does not own a charter, which would assure it a spot in the Daytona 500. Beard Motorsports failed to qualify a year ago with driver Austin Hill. Missing the race was brutal in any circumstance. But understanding the significance of the race to Mark Beard, who started racing go-karts at 8 years old and had his own NASCAR career cut short because of sponsorship woes, made the family resolute in trying again in his honor in 2024.

“With Beard Motorsports missing the show last year, I wanted to deliver for them and be the one to put it in and carry on Mark’s legacy,” Alfredo said. “Linda and Amie want this so bad. I think it was just really cool to accomplish that together.”

Now it’s time for them to make a run at winning the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

“I think dad would be extremely excited and thrilled. Losing dad was very hard,” Aime Beard-Deja said. “We also have family businesses included in this. But there was no question of it. We had to keep doing it for the legacy of him. It’s for our love, too. It keeps him alive for us. We thrive from it. We love it.”

Beard Motorsports is more than a Michigan-based race team; it’s a family business.

Linda and her children, Amie and Mark Jr., run the team for the Daytona 500 and three other superspeedway races scheduled for this season.

Beard Motorsports has one full-time employee, crew chief Darren Shaw. Gaughan considers himself the grand poobah of Beard Motorsports, a kind of team cheerleader — he hosts a NASCAR betting show — and can’t bring himself to use a stack of business cards, given to him by Mark, that call him director of race operations. After her husband died, Linda told Gaughan he could never have that title taken away.

“So it stuck,” he said, laughing.

Mark Beard, who died at 72 in 2021, had a passion for motorsports and Daytona, and even made a pair of starts in NASCAR’s second-tier series in the 1980s. Even as he ran Beard Oil Distributing, a third-generation family business based in his hometown of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, his deep love was always racing.

He founded his Cup team in 2014, in part to promote Beard Oil, and failed to qualify for a handful of Cup races that season. Beard Motorsports took two seasons off before making a run at the 2017 Daytona 500 with Gaughan behind the wheel. Like Alfredo, Gaughan had to drive in one of two qualifying races for the Daytona 500 to make the field. Beard cobbled together a pit crew and an engine from fellow team owner Richard Childress and bought a car from Leavine Family Racing, and Gaughan and his patchwork team made the race. He finished a solid 11th.

Not bad for a NASCAR debut.

“We come here to not only have a great time, because for us this is a great time, but we come here to be competitive,” Linda said. “We don’t come here just to sit in the back. We come here to win. What’s in our mind is how good we can get and be.”

Gaughan cracks jokes and keeps everyone loose but sharing his memories of Mark Beard choke him up. Gaughan’s kids were in Aime’s wedding last year, and he escorted the widow to the ceremony.

“It was very special for me,” Gaughan said, pausing, before dabbing tears from his eyes. “They’re great people.”

It didn't take Alfredo long to figure that out. He is set for just his third Cup start since his lone full season in 2021 with Front Row Motorsports.

Unlike some back-marker teams whose Daytona dreams hang on a shoestring budget, Beard Motorsports invests in Daytona and its limited slate of races. Gaughan boasts the team only pays for “A motors,” and Alfredo’s No. 62 Chevrolet has a top-of-the-line engine built by Earnhardt-Childress Racing.

Alfredo’s concerns about car quality were soothed by Gaughan. Gaughan noted the Chevy was the type of car that belonged on the side of the NASCAR garage where the elite teams park their haulers, not a second side at Daytona where most of the also-rans fit.

“I told Alfredo before qualifying, before he even got in the car, 'Kiddo, I know you did a year in Cup, but this is going to be the nicest Cup car you’ve ever been,’” Gaughan said.

“You think?” Alfredo asked.

“I know. I know what Darren did. I know what ECR does for us,” Gaughan replied. “When the 62 shows up, people know that the 62 is here.”

Alfredo starts 39th in the 40-car Daytona 500, a race where starting position doesn’t mean as much as just hanging around at the end when an anything-can-happen feel often leads to upset winners.

“Mark and I came here for probably 40-some years, came to the races,” Linda said. “He raced here. So that’s emotional to come back here because this is a place he really loved. And so did we. To do this and to do it as many times as we have, it’s a blessing for us because we’re a small team. A lot of people take this for granted that are here.

“We don’t take it for granted, you know?”


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