● Beard Motorsports will make its 2023 NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend in the GEICO 500 NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. This is Beard Motorsports’ seventh season participating in select NASCAR Cup Series events. The team’s resume includes a total of 21 starts in Cup Series competition. Piloting the No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro for the Beard family is NASCAR Xfinity Series standout driver Austin Hill.
● This weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega will mark the second career start for Hill. The native of Winston, Georgia, made his Cup Series debut last season at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn driving the No. 33 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing (RCR). He raced his way to an 18th-place finish after starting 31st. While Hill may have limited experience behind the wheel of a NASCAR Cup Series car, he goes into this weekend’s race with a growing prowess for superspeedway racing. Driving for RCR in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Hill has a resume that features a total of five series wins. Among those victories are a pair of wins at Talladega’s sister track, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
● Realtree, the world’s leading designer, marketer, and licensor of photorealistic camouflage, will serve as the primary sponsor on the No. 62 Chevrolet this weekend at Talladega. The scheme will highlight Realtree’s Timebr® camouflage pattern and feature a special promotion for Turkeys for Tomorrow (TFT), the 501(c)3 non-profit group dedicated to wild turkey conservation. Formed in 2021 by veteran turkey hunters who were concerned about the future of the wild turkey and the turkey hunting tradition, the group has continued to grow and be at the forefront of cutting-edge wild turkey research projects.
● The 2023 NASCAR season is Beard Motorsports’ seventh participating in the series on a limited basis. Matriarch Linda Beard, along with her children, carry on the pursuit of their late husband and father, Mark Beard Sr., in racing and in business. Beard Motorsports and its family-owned company, Beard Oil Distributing – a certified women-owned business – is a distinctive qualifier in the male-dominated sport of auto racing. While Linda Beard’s name appears as car owner on the entry list, the team is managed with ample support from her children, Amie and Mark Beard Jr., along with help from crew chief Darren Shaw and Brendan Gaughan, the former NASCAR Cup Series driver who made 17 of his 67 career series starts with Beard Motorsports.
● While Sunday’s GEICO 500 will be the first race of the 2023 season for the No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet team, it is not the group’s first attempt. The Beard family fielded the No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro with Hill during Speedweek at Daytona with plans to race in the season-opening Daytona 500. The team was poised to advance to the starting field for the 500 when the No. 62 Chevrolet was caught up in a multicar accident during the closing laps of its Duel qualifying race.
● Crew chief Darren Shaw leads the competition efforts for the No. 62 Beard Motorsports team and has been preparing for the races that will make up the rest of the team’s 2023 racing schedule since leaving Daytona in February. In addition to this weekend’s GEICO 500 at Talladega, the No. 62 Beard team is slated to compete at Michigan in August, the season’s second races at Daytona and Talladega in August and October, respectively, as well as the Bank of America ROVAL 400 on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval in October.
● The No. 62 Realtree/Turkeys for Tomorrow Chevrolet Camaro is powered by an ECR-built engine. Beard Motorsports has leveraged the power of ECR Engines since making its NASCAR debut with Gaughan in the driver’s seat in 2017. During the team’s seven seasons of racing, Beard Motorsports has participated in 21 Cup Series events, scoring one top-five and five top-10 finishes. Its most recent performances featured a top-five finish in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona last August with former driver Noah Gragson. Prior to 2022, Beard boasted a pair of top-10 finishes at Daytona during the 2020 season with Gaughan at the wheel – seventh in the Daytona 500 in February and eighth in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in August.
You didn’t get to make a start in the Daytona 500 but you did get time behind the wheel of the No. 62 Chevrolet during the qualifying race. Were you able to learn anything about working with the Beard Motorsports team or crew chief Darren Shaw that may help you this week?
“For the number of laps that we ran in Daytona, we did find a few things that I like in the car on superspeedways compared to what we originally loaded with. Those are things that we are going to put into effect this weekend at Talladega. The car wanted to turn on its own a lot and you didn’t have to put much wheel in to it but I personally like to tug on the wheel and be on the tight side at superspeedways. I feel like you can do more with that and not be as cautious with getting pushes.”
You will be making only your second career Cup Series start this weekend, but you’ve been having a great run in the Xfinity Series. Talk about how that affects your confidence as you get ready to make the start in the Cup Series this weekend.
“With it being a superspeedway race my confidence level is probably as high as it’s going to get for a Cup race. The Cup and Xfinity cars are going to draft different – just the way the energy is going to work on a superspeedway track in each car. But in saying that, it’s still a superspeedway. You are still drafting. You still need to take the runs and pull out of line when you get the chance. You just have to do it differently in the two cars. My philosophy hasn’t changed though. I’m going to learn as much as I can in the first stage. Then, by the time we get to the second and final stages, I can take a lot of the stuff I learned from the first stage and use it to our advantage. We may work on our Realtree Chevrolet during the first stage to get the car driving where I want it, and then be aggressive when we get to the final stage. I think we have as much a chance to win as anyone. The way the superspeedway races play out, you have to miss the big one and be aggressive all day. If you are there at the end, anything can happen.”
Talladega and Daytona are both superspeedways but tend to produce different races in that it seems cars can get really strung out at Talladega. What has been your experience with race at Talladega versus Daytona?
“I’ve had success and have found myself up front at both Talladega and Daytona. I’m a firm believer that every superspeedway race races a little bit different than the last. You have to go into superspeedway weekends with a clear mindset. The things that maybe worked for you in Talladega last year, may not work for you this year. A lot has to do with the temperature outside, track temperature, the wind. There are a lot of different factors that play into the superspeedways with how the draft is that day. Every time we go to a superspeedway it feels like I have to do something a little different inside the car to still get the performance out of the car that I’m looking for. When you get behind someone the bubble is a lot different in each race that you run. I led laps and had a shot at winning at Talladega last season in the Xfinity car and it’s not a guarantee that what I did last year will work going into this weekend.”
You’ve had a lot of success on superspeedways in your career. How much can translate to your efforts in the Cup car?
“The biggest thing for me is I feel like Derek Kneeland (Xfinity Series spotter) and I are really aggressive from the start of the race. During the first stage we learn to set ourselves up for the second and final stage. That is not going to change – it’s just something that we have always done. If we get big runs, we pull out of line to see if it works. The more that you can learn in the first stage to apply later in the race sets you up better for when you get to the final 10 or 20 laps. You can apply everything that has been learned early in the race. This is something that is carried over for every race I’ve ever run on a superspeedway and probably won’t change going forward.”