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Todd Gilliland, Noah Gragson have chance at NASCAR history

MADISON, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 20: Todd Gilliland, driver of the #38 Crosley Brands Ford, walks the grid prior to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota 200 presented by CK Power at Gateway Motorsports Park on August 20, 2021 in Madison, Illinois. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — If Todd Gilliland and Noah Gragson find Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 Sunday, either driver would become the seventh driver in the history of NASCAR’s premier series to win in their debut.

The two drivers will each make their NASCAR Cup Series debut, looking to become the first drivers to win in their first start in nearly 59 years.

Gilliland, a two-time winner in the Truck Series, will be racing the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports entry, running for Rookie-of-the-Year honors.

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 06: Noah Gragson, driver of the #9 Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber/BRCC Chevrolet, looks on from the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 06, 2021 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Gragson, who will make his first start with Beard Motorsports, will run additional Cup Series races for Kaulig Racing throughout 2022.

Six drivers have won in their Cup Series debut, according to statistics across two racing databases.

The feat was accomplished five times across NASCAR’s first three seasons; twice in 1949 and 1950, and once in 1951. 

The last driver to record a victory in their debut was Johnny Rutherford in February of 1963, winning in a Daytona 500 qualifier race.

The last drivers to make their premier series debuts in the Daytona 500 were Christopher Bell and Brennan Poole in 2020, who finished 21st and 16th respectively.

Live television coverage of the Daytona 500 will be on FOX Sunday (Feb. 20) at 2:30 p.m. E.T.


Jim Roper (Charlotte Speedway, 1949)

Jack White (Hamburg Speedway, 1949)

Harold Kite (Beach & Road Course, 1950)

Leon Sales (North Wilkesboro Speedway, 1950)

Marvin Burke (Oakland Stadium, 1951)

Johnny Rutherford (Daytona International Speedway, 1963)


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