William Byron closed the book on his short Xfinity Series career over the weekend, celebrating his championship during the awards banquet in Charlotte, North Carolina. The event officially signaled the end of the 2017 season, and for Byron, gave way to the next chapter of his career.
Three years after Byron ran his first full NASCAR season (in the K&N Pro Series East), he will take over the famed Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The 20-year-old says he has not talked to Rick Hendrick about expectations for next season, but Byron doesn’t plan on slowing down.
“I expect to win. I expect to compete hard and race hard,” Byron said. “But I think that the cool thing about [Hendrick] is he kind of saw how I go about things and that was more the reason that he got me in the first place. And that’s the person you want to drive for, somebody that is more worried about you as a person and also how competitive you are. He knows the results are going to come with that.”
A 12-time premier series championship car owner, Hendrick has fostered many talented drivers through the years. The same is expected from Byron, and when Byron was signed in August, praise from Hendrick included his talent, “unbelievable” character and rapid rate of success.
“We didn’t envision, I guess, starting out and winning in the first year and we expected to probably do Xfinity for a few years,” Byron continued. “But it’s kind of been a crazy couple of years.”
Byron has been slowly integrating into the Hendrick system. He’s part of quite a bit of change for HMS ahead of next season, including two new drivers, key personnel moving around, and even a different car number entering the mix.
There have already been 2018 obligations to partake in, and Byron has been meeting new people often. Ideally, Byron hopes to experience the feel of a Cup car before the 60th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 18.
An offseason test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway could provide that opportunity, although Byron does not know if he’s slated to participate. If not, the biggest race of the season will be his coming out party.
Not that Byron needs any introduction. At this young age, Byron has compiled an impressive résumé with two NASCAR championships (K&N and Xfinity), 11 national series wins and Rookie of the Year honors in the Camping World Truck and Xfinity series.
It has been an improbable journey, Byron admits.
“It’s been a crazy couple of years. I really just wanted to win a truck race and then after that it was wanting to win the second one and then win the championship,” Byron said. “You progress through your goals and obviously, as a kid, when everyone asked you what you want to be, I wanted to be a racecar driver, but it wasn’t a realistic goal to think that I was going to do that.
“It all came together in a short period of time. If you would have asked me five years would I be driving race cars in the Cup Series, I would say you’re crazy. So, it’s pretty cool.”