NASCAR: Noah Gragson penalized, misses Daytona 500 qualifying

Noah Gragson, Beard Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Noah Gragson, Beard Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Noah Gragson will not complete a single-car qualifying run for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 after his car failed inspection three times.

Noah Gragson’s path to a Daytona 500 debut — and a NASCAR Cup Series debut — on Sunday, February 14 got a whole lot tougher.

Gragson, who competes full-time for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, was named the Daytona 500 driver of the #62 Chevrolet for Beard Motorsports following the retirement of Brendan Gaughan after the 2020 season.

With the #62 Chevrolet not having a charter, the Daytona 500 entry list featuring 44 cars and the race itself only featuring a 40-car field, Gragson is not guaranteed a starting spot in the 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona International Speedway oval in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Now he won’t get a shot to make a qualifying run this evening.

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His #62 Chevrolet failed pre-qualifying inspection three times, prompting NASCAR to bar him from making a qualifying attempt this evening. As a result, he must finish as the highest driver of a non-chartered car in his Bluegreen Vacations Duel race tomorrow evening in order to qualify for the Daytona 500.

In addition to missing his single-car qualifying run tonight, he is slated to start his Duel race from the rear of the field tomorrow night as well.

There are 36 chartered entries which are locked into the Daytona 500 field. Aside from Gragson, the seven drivers of non-chartered entries who are battling to lock themselves into one of the remaining four open positions are Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, Kaulig Racing’s Kaz Grala, Gaunt Brothers Racing’s Ty Dillon, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ryan Preece, Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan and MBM Motorsports teammates Timmy Hill and Garrett Smithley.

The fastest two of these seven other drivers tonight will lock themselves into the Daytona 500 field.

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Single-car qualifying is currently airing live on Fox Sports 1. The Bluegreen Vacations Duels are set to be broadcast live tomorrow evening on the same network beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET. The Daytona 500 itself is set to be broadcast live on Fox on Sunday, February 14 beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.