Beard Motorsports is David versus the Goliaths of the NASCAR Cup Series. How do you and the team make it all work?
“Mark Beard is the team owner. He’s passionate about racing and he’s always wanted to have a car in a Cup race. It’s been a lifelong dream of his. He drove in the NASCAR Modified, Sportsman and Busch Grand National Series in the ’80s and ’90s. His son raced go-karts and Late Models and Modifieds. They do snowmobile racing. He’s a racer. He got a good, good car that was an old RCR car, but I called the fab shop and they said it was one of their current models.
“Literally, the team has one employee, and it’s the crew chief, Darren Shaw. He’s the only guy that works on the racecar. That’s it. We don’t have a fulltime team. We don’t have a crew coming in. We have one guy who comes in as the car chief who is an industrial plumber and, when he gets off work or has down time, he comes in and helps there. That’s it. This is an old-school throwback.
“Richard (Childress) and I, we have a great relationship, us and RCR go way back. I love that man. He’s taken such great care of me and he still does. They help us, they help put it back together. In fact, after our crash last fall at Talladega, the RCR fab shop, Richard, everybody, were telling me, ‘Don’t you worry, we’ve got you another one for Daytona. Just make sure you just come and get it.’ We do have two cars now and Darren Shaw does it all himself. The man’s amazing. He gets to take it up to RCR, they do the tweaking on the bodies and stuff like that. They keep us up to date for a team that’s in the last garage stall and we go out there and try to win races with it.”
Your last 13 NASCAR Cup Series races have all come at superspeedways. What is it that you like about this style of racing?
“I’ve liked them for a long time. There’s more than just brute strength. Everybody loves to say it’s a crapshoot, but it’s not a crapshoot. There is thought that goes into it and, if you look at my record with the Beards, go to five laps or less or 10 laps or less in the 12 races I’ve had with them, and in eight of those races, I’ve been in the top-five with 10 laps or less to go. To put yourself in that position is an art, and I love doing that. These races are fun. It is an equalizer. It is a chance for a team like the Beards to show up and have a chance to win, and we’ve proved that time and time again. I just really enjoy it. There’s a time when discretion and valor come into play. You’ve got to be smart and see what’s going on. And I love competing for the Beard family. They’re great people, and I’m going to enjoy these last four races with them.”
You’ve been competing in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2004, but have said some of your most memorable moments have come in the last few years with Beard Motorsports. Why?
“It’s just a throwback. This doesn’t happen anymore. Nobody does this anymore. This is a team that literally does four races. We only had one car for the first year and a half. We had three for a brief moment. Now we’re back down to two. Darren Shaw (crew chief) and I, we went and I got the trailer wrapped for them as a surprise for the owner. Their daughter went and got the team crew shirts. And Darren got the pit box put together with a monitor on it, with television and timing and scoring, and wrapped it with sponsors because we always had to look at other people’s pit boxes for lap times. And we did that all for the owner out of our own pockets to give them something nice. Every other team, that’s expected. If you don’t have that, people won’t work for you. These are guys who thought it was the neatest thing in the world to have a trailer wrapped that says Beard Motorsports. These are people who appreciate this sport, and love just being able to make these races. I remind them all the time that they’re beating Roger Penske, they’re beating Joe Gibbs, they’re beating Rick Hendrick. They’re such great people and their family is awesome – their son Mark and their daughter Amie are such a big part of it – and I enjoy being with these people and seeing what we accomplish as a David versus the Goliaths.”
You’re locked into the Daytona 500 because of your qualifying effort. What are your chances in the Great American Race?
“This is a bad-to-the-bone car with a big-time ECR motor. I can push, I can pull, I’m fast. Last year, Brad Keselowski, at the end of that race, was hammering the hell out of me. I got my hand signal, ‘Let’s go, let’s go,’ and he was pushing me to the front and he’s done it before and he’ll do it again. I pushed Kyle Busch to the front, so those guys know who’s in it now. It’s not somebody who they don’t realize who it is. They know we have great stuff and they know it’s me behind the wheel, so it helps. They let me play in their reindeer games now.”