Beard Motorsports team owner and former NASCAR driver Mark Beard Sr. has died at the age of 72. On Monday, the team announced his passing but added that they will press on with their plans of running the Daytona 500 in two weeks, fielding the #62 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for Cup Series newcomer Noah Gragson. A cause of death was not specified, but an obituary from Charles R. Lux Family Funeral Home in his hometown Mount Pleasant, Michigan, explains he died on Sunday at his home.
“It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Mark Beard Sr., president of Beard Motorsports,” began a statement from the team. “Mark was passionate about racing and the businesses he built with his family, and even though he will be terribly missed, his work ethic and kind heart lives on with the many people he influenced.
“While the family requests privacy at this time, they want to reaffirm Beard Motorsports’ commitment to compete in this year’s 500 where the team will race in Mark’s honour.”
Beard began his driving career in karting and drag racing before moving into oval tracks such as dirt and ARCA, racing for car owners like Indianapolis 500 winner and fellow Michigan native Gordon Johncock. In 1982, he ran the inaugural Budweiser Late Model Sportsman (now the Xfinity Series) race at Daytona, where he finished eighteenth as an owner/driver. He would not make another start in the series until 1986 when he finished twenty-sixth at Charlotte. His driving days, plagued by little support, would end following various failed qualifying efforts in the early 1990s, with his final attempt being a DNQ at Michigan in 1995. Gary Neice, Dana Patten, Bobby Dotter (current owner of Xfinity team SS-Green Light Racing), L.D. Ottinger, Richard Lasater, Butch Miller, and Jim Brinkley Jr. would also race Beard’s cars during the decade.
Off the track, Beard worked in the oil business; in 1984, he founded M&L Petroleum Inc. followed by Beard Oil in 2005. In 2009, he got back into racing as a team owner when he founded Beard Motorsports. His son Mark Beard II would also become a driver in late models for the family operation.
Beard Motorsports débuted during the 2009 ARCA season with Clay Rogers. Due to the team’s small size and lack of funding, mechanical trouble plagued their early history, such as when Rogers moved from fortieth to third in their maiden start at Michigan but retired in thirty-second with an engine failure, followed by qualifying fourth in the next year’s race there but finishing thirty-second again due to a clutch issue. The team hoped to move into the Cup Series in 2014 with Rogers, but failed to qualify in both of their attempts at Richmond and Phoenix.
After a two-year dormancy, Beard revived his Cup programme with Brendan Gaughan to run the superspeedway races. Gaughan would run seventeen races for Beard, all of which were at Daytona and Talladega with one being on the former’s road course in 2020, scoring four top tens and a best finish of seventh on two occasions.
Gaughan retired after the 2020 season and the team added Gragson, an Xfinity Series regular who hails from Las Vegas like Gaughan, for the Daytona 500. Should Gragson race his way into the 500, it will mark his Cup début.
“Heavy hearts today. Thinking about the Beard Family,” Gragson tweeted. “Time to go ‘drive the piss out of it’ and do it for Mr. Beard in the 500.”
“From a young age Mark loved race cars,” read the obituary. “He started from building Go-Karts to realizing his goal of racing late models and Busch Grand Nationals at Daytona. In 2016 he established his own NASCAR Cup Team, running the #75, then the #62. Among his many leisure activities, Mark enjoyed boating, snowmobiling, hunting, and golfing. He was the kind of guy that brought life and laughter to any room, never knowing what he might say. Mark was a strong man who would do anything for his beloved family.”
He is survived by his wife Linda and two children Mark II and Amie.