Most people head to Las Vegas as a reprieve from work. Brendan Gaughan leaves Las Vegas to get away from work. And in the COVID-19 era, Gaughan has been working overtime.
Whether it’s been doing his part to help homeschool his two boys, Michael James (age 9) and William Ryland (age 6) with his wife, Tatum, or earning more responsibility from his father, Michael, in running the family’s casino business, or seeing his startup cleaning company, New Wave Cleaning Solutions, explode in the wake of COVID-19, Gaughan’s semi-retirement from NASCAR racing has seen the 44-year-old Las Vegas-native busier than ever.
Being able to drive the No. 62 Beard Oil Distributing/South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Camaro for Beard Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series and race at 200 mph on the circuit’s biggest track, surrounded by 39 other racers in the heat and humidity that is a hallmark of June in Alabama, is Gaughan’s way of unwinding.
The GEICO 500 Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway is Gaughan’s getaway, and thanks to an impressive seventh-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 four months ago, Gaughan has a reserved seat in the 40-car field. Had he not scored that result back in February, Gaughan would likely be watching the GEICO 500 from his couch instead of seated in his racecar.
Unlike past races where Gaughan has participated in qualifying, taking full advantage of Beard Motorsports’ alliance with Richard Childress Racing (RCR) that includes the power of an ECR-built engine, the field for this year’s GEICO 500 is being set by current owners’ points. Without that seventh-place finish in the Daytona 500, Beard Motorsports wouldn’t have had enough points to be ahead of the top-40 cutoff. Instead, the independent team is 39th in points, allowing Gaughan to line up with the best in stock-car racing.
Beard Motorsports has proven to be the little team that could, a modern-day David competing against the Goliaths of the NASCAR Cup Series. Owned by Mark Beard Sr., president of Beard Motorsports and various family businesses, Beard Motorsports has taken a strategic approach to its racing endeavors, forming a technical partnership with RCR and running only the superspeedway races at Daytona and Talladega. With cars constructed by RCR and powered by ECR engines, Beard Motorsports has scored three top-10 finishes, including an eighth-place drive in April 2019 at Talladega where Gaughan led five laps.
Gaughan has made 13 NASCAR Cup Series starts with Beard Motorsports, all coming at Daytona and Talladega. And in a series dominated by multicar teams with hundreds of employees, Beard Motorsports does it with one full-time employee, crew chief Darren Shaw. Its one part-time employee, car chief Drew Mickey, is a fulltime, industrial plumber. And the two mechanics that come in on race weekends – one is a boat captain (Nic Hill) and the other is an automotive body technician (Jack Cagnon).
This throwback race team has proven it can hang with the multicar outfits whose “guys back at the shop” reach into the hundreds. Want proof? Look beyond Gaughan’s seventh-place drive in the Daytona 500 and focus on his most recent visit to Talladega last October where five laps short of the finish, Gaughan took the lead as the field approached turn three of the 2.66-mile oval. Unfortunately, Gaughan never made it through turn three, as he was sent airborne after being collected in a multicar accident. Gaughan walked away from the spectacular crash unhurt, and despite the 27th-place finish, remained upbeat as he spoke to reporters outside the infield care center following a precautionary medical evaluation.
The No. 62 Beard Oil Distributing/South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Camaro had run up front, and was this close to slaying Goliath. Gaughan could taste the victory, and while the outcome proved to be bittersweet, it set the stage for Gaughan’s run in this year’s Daytona 500. With that finish under his belt and the same No. 62 Camaro awaiting him Sunday at Talladega, Gaughan is happy to leave Las Vegas and say, “Viva Talladega.”