Notes of Interest
● Wendy’s® (Nasdaq: WEN) has joined Beard Motorsports and driver Noah Gragson as its primary partner for the GEICO 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Fresh off an impressive activation on the biggest stage in college basketball – March Madness – the company has shifted gears and traveled to the biggest oval track in NASCAR to share the fan-favorite $5 Biggie™ Bag with race enthusiasts. The $5 Biggie Bag comes complete with the choice of a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, Double Stack™, or a Crispy Chicken BLT with four-piece chicken nuggets (Spicy or Crispy), small Hot & Crispy Fries, and a small soft drink. A lot of flavor, a lot of value, a lot of choices.
● The Biggie-st, baggiest meal deal is lapping the competition and going big at Talladega. In addition to its red-white-and-blue No. 62 Wendy’s $5 Biggie Bag Chevrolet Camaro that Gragson will race in the GEICO 500, Wendy’s will have a pop-up restaurant in the infield at Talladega near turn four where fans can get their own $5 Biggie Bag without missing any of the racing action. It’s operating schedule is as follows (all times CDT):
● Friday, April 22: 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Biggie Bag and Frosty sampling)
● Saturday, April 23: 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. (Frosty-ccino sampling); 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Biggie Bag and Frosty sampling)
● Sunday, April 24: 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. (Frosty-ccino sampling); 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Biggie Bag and Frosty sampling)
● It’s more than just a pop-up store. It’s a float! That’s right. The Wendy’s pop-store in the infield at Talladega is mobile, and fans can see it in action on Friday night in the Big One on the Boulevard Parade, starting at 7:30 p.m. CDT. But wait, there’s more! The Biggie Bag-themed float with 3-D products adorning it – Double Stack, fries, nuggets and a drink – has a walk-up window where fans can get food. You’ll ask, “Is this heaven?” No, it’s Talladega. And if you weren’t totally sure, a Wendy’s-branded big rig will be pulling the float. That air horn you’ll hear is the sound of awesome.
● How do you know when you’ve made it? When you have your very own Frosty. Noah Gragson has indeed made it. The driver of the No. 62 Wendy’s $5 Biggie Bag Chevrolet Camaro developed the Blue Raspberry Frosty in the corporate kitchen of Wendy’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. It’s an exclusive treat that is only available at the Wendy’s pop-up store in the infield at Talladega.
● Since its NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2017, Beard Motorsports has proven to be the little team that could, a modern-day David competing against the Goliaths of NASCAR. The family-ownedorganization has taken a strategic approach to its racing endeavors, running only the superspeedway races at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and its sister track, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. With a Chevrolet Camaro powered by an ECR-built engine, Beard Motorsports can race at the front, a fact proven by a pair of top-10 finishes in 2020 at the hands of former driver Brendan Gaughan – seventh in the Daytona 500 and eighth in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, also at Daytona.
● What drives Beard Motorsports? Passion. Linda, along with her children, carry on the pursuit of their husband and father, respectively, 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. Linda is hands-on with the family motorsports business and was alongside her husband as he pursued his passion of racing at Daytona – first as a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver in 1982 and simultaneously as a team owner. Today, Beard Motorsports competes in his honor. The GEICO 500 at Talladega will be the team’s 19th career NASCAR Cup Series start and its ninth at Talladega.
● While it’s Linda Beard at the top of Beard Motorsports’ masthead, the team is managed with ample support from her children, Amie and Mark Beard Jr., along with help from crew chief Darren Shaw and Gaughan, the former NASCAR Cup Series driver who made 17 of his 67 career Cup Series starts with Beard Motorsports. It was Gaughan who, upon retiring from racing at the conclusion of the 2020 season, tabbed Gragson to be his successor in the No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro. In addition to both being natives of Las Vegas, Gaughan has observed Gragson’s rise from regional racer to a competitor in NASCAR’s top national touring series.
● While Gragson is still a NASCAR Cup Series neophyte with only three career starts in NASCAR’s top series, he is not new to NASCAR. The 23-year-old competes fulltime in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports (JRM) and 2022 marks his fourth season in NASCAR’s stepping-stone division to the elite NASCAR Cup Series. Gragson is a six-time winner in the Xfinity Series, and he scored his first career victory in the 2020 season opener at Daytona. He is coming off his best year yet where in 2021 Gragson won three races and advanced to the Championship 4 where he competed for the series title in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway, finishing a career-high third in points.
● Gragson’s first career NASCAR Cup Series start came with Beard Motorsports in this year’s Daytona 500. After starting 39th in the Great American Race, Gragson was running among the top-10 with just 10 laps remaining, But on lap 191, another car lost control and slid into his Gragson’s Chevrolet Camaro as the two raced through the frontstretch. Gragson was turned into the wall and his car suffered heavy front-end damage. Gragson was unhurt, but the same could not be said for his racecar. He was unable to continue the race and was ultimately credited with a 31st-place finish.
● Before joining the Xfinity Series fulltime in 2019, Gragson competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2017 and 2018. He won twice – Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in October 2017 and Kansas Speedway in May 2018 – and finished second in the 2018 championship. Those Truck Series results were a continuation of the kind of talent Gragson showcased in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. In 2015 and 2016, Gragson raced in this developmental league, regionally split into two divisions – K&N Pro Series East and K&N Pro Series West. Gragson won six races between the two entities and narrowly missed out on the 2015 West title by a scant seven points.
Noah Gragson, Driver of the No. 62 Wendy’s $5 Biggie Bag Chevrolet Camaro
Your first career NASCAR Cup Series start came with Beard Motorsports earlier this year in the Daytona 500. Talk about that moment and the details of that race and racing for the Beard Family.
“I was pumped up that we made it into the race and that we were competitive all race long. We got up to seventh toward the end and I hate that we got torn up, or we might have had a shot at pulling off an upset win. To be able to run inside the top-10 with a smaller, family-owned team was a really cool moment in my career.”
The Daytona 500 was also the official debut of the NextGen car. What was it like to drive and, more specifically, was it similar to the car you currently drive in the Xfinity Series?
“You hear of a lot of people saying how different the NextGen car can be to drive. For me, especially at a place like Daytona or Talladega, it was really similar to my Xfinity car.”
Were there any differences to how you worked the draft with the NextGen car compared to the Xfinity Series car? Did you have to learn some new techniques and break some old habits?
“Not really, I just tried to think about everything I’ve learned from Dale Jr. and my JRM team and apply that to my Cup races on the bigger tracks.”
How helpful was the Daytona 500 in preparing you for the GEICO 500 at Talladega?
“Track time is always important and we’re bringing a strong Wendy’s $5 Biggie Bag Chevrolet Camaro to Talladega. Anytime you get a chance to race against the Cup guys on Sundays, it always helps you learn more about what moves work and what moves don’t.”
All racecar drivers want to win, but outside of a win Sunday at Talladega, what do you want to get out of the GEICO 500 considering it will be just your third career NASCAR Cup Series start?
“I think the biggest thing is running all the laps and being there at the end. The Cup races this year seem to be more about survival than anything, and I want to be in the mix coming to the last lap.”
Your Xfinity Series car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is a six-time NASCAR Cup Series winner at Talladega. What advice has he given you about racing there?
“Dale Jr., has helped me a lot for plate-style tracks. I used his advice to win the Daytona Xfinity race in 2020 with JRM. The biggest thing is how much he pays attention to the positioning of his car and how the air plays a role in benefiting your momentum.”
You’re debuting a new partner at Talladega in Wendy’s. How did the partnership come together and what are some of the things that you’ve already done with them?
“We’ve had a great relationship with the Wendy’s folks for a few years now. I had the chance to do some fan interactions at their hospitality location in Daytona this year. That’s where we started talking about Talladega and trying to put this partnership together. I’m excited to work with such a cool brand that engages with the fans and, obviously, who doesn't love Wendy’s?”
What’s more intense – the racing at Talladega or the Talladega Boulevard there in the infield?
“Both can be a lot of fun. I would have to say the racing is more intense, but they do know how to get wild on the boulevard.”
Do you go out on the Talladega Boulevard? If so, what do you like about it and what are some of the crazier things you’ve seen on the Boulevard?
“I think I’ll be out there for Wendy’s over the course of the weekend hanging out with fans. It’ll be fun to hang out on the boulevard, but it will for sure be a long weekend of racing running both Xfinity and Cup. It’s going to be pretty early to bed for me.”
If you get hungry on the Boulevard, where do you go?
“If I get hungry, I’m going to stop by Wendy’s activation site at Talladega and grab a Wendy’s Blue Raspberry Frosty – right there in the infield. I went up to Wendy’s headquarters in Ohio and got to mix it up and try different flavors. The blue raspberry tastes amazing and is now my signature recipe. Everyone needs to try it.”