William Byron has taken the NASCAR world by storm since emerging onto the Camping World Truck Series scene in 2016.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series champion turned 20 last month, but his accomplishments as a teenager set him apart among the next generation of racers.
After scoring seven Truck Series wins and Rookie of the Year honors last year, he translated that success to the XFINITY Series in 2017.
He became the second-youngest driver to capture the series title and won four races including on two of the sports biggest stages – Daytona and Indianapolis.
“Daytona was a huge stage to win on,” Byron told POPULAR SPEED. “It was very unique. Kind of the coolest moment of the year was winning there and at Indy.”
Teenagers excelling is rare in most professional sports but common in racing.
While many professional athletes are developing in their college years, Byron dominated the lower ranks en route to the top.
“NASCAR’s kind of unique because whatever age you are you can race and if you’re really good, you can get to that level,” Byron said.
He followed the path blazed by Chase Elliott after the then 19-year-old won multiple races en route to the championship in the No. 9 JR Motorsports entry.
The talent both demonstrated during their tenures in the second-tier series quickly advanced them to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Byron has exceeded all expectations over the last two seasons, and that led to the opportunity to climb behind the wheel of the No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports in 2018 as Elliott moves to the No. 9.
The quick career progression can not only be credited to the quality of Byron’s equipment but his relentless preparation.
“Staying mentally focused and calm in the car, the race craft that you have, and how you do on restarts and how you race guys is all based on what you learn,” Byron said. “All that stuff has come over time, and I feel like it’s developed pretty well.”
Moving to the Cup Series carries significant pressure in itself but also being tasked with climbing into an iconic ride brings new expectations.
“Hopefully I can make it my own in some ways but also carry on the tradition Jeff Gordon left and all the races that he won,” Byron said. “Hopefully we can progress that number more, and I feel like it’s going to be a really strong year.”
While performing well will be a significant goal for the team, Byron also finds himself in a unique position to bridge the gap between the past and present for Jeff Gordon fans.
“The biggest thing it does is hopefully connects the fans that were connected with him to me and be able to grow their passion of the sport with me as well,” Byron said.
Continuing to produce results and advance the legacy of the ride will serve as his next challenges.
Making mistakes is an understood occurrence for people around Byron’s age. However, a balance between maturity and confidence has allowed him to handle demanding tasks impressively in the past and maintaining that composure will likely serve him well moving forward.
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