Now 60 starts and two crew chiefs into his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career with Hendrick Motorsports, William Byron is the most comfortable he’s ever been.
“It’s the first time I walk in the shop, and I don’t feel on pins and needles with the guys in terms of just trusting me and me feeling comfortable with them to tell them exactly what’s on my mind. To say if I’m not content or not happy with something, or if things went great, they went great,” Byron said.
“My guys and I do a lot of stuff during the week to try to interact; I wouldn’t say we go out to dinner every night by any means, but if we have free weekends we all go out and do something fun if we’re away from the track. It’s really the first time I’ve done that with a group of guys at Hendrick, so it’s really cool.”
Byron described his team’s interaction as “really similar” to what he had when he was coming up through the ranks.
The 2017 Rookie of the Year, Byron worked with veteran Darian Grubb last year. This season, he was paired with seven-time champion crew chief Chad Knaus (pictured at right above, with Byron), who parted from the established No. 48 team to the No. 24 with a young driver and team he reshuffled during the offseason.
Knaus has helped Byron in more ways than one. On the track, the team has already surpassed the top-fives (two), top 10s (eight), poles (three), and laps led (180) earned last season. Off the track, Knaus has led by example when it comes to communication, something that Byron has picked up and started to do better.
“It’s easy to act like everything’s good, but really diving into the details of like, ‘Hey, I feel like this needed to be better,’ or, ‘I need to do this better.’ Being honest, actually admit when you did something wrong. takes a lot, and I’ve seen Chad do that numerous times this year,” Byron said. “Just understanding where I can step up and say I could have done this better or vice versa for them. I just feel like my guys are pretty honest with the situation and we’re not ever worried about anything affecting us.”
Why is this new? In Byron’s mind, the top performing driver gets the biggest say, and to him, that’s been Chase Elliott. How you perform “kind of controls” how your input is received. Now that Byron and his team are running better, that’s helped with the close relationship, comfort, and communication.
Twelfth in the standings with only two races left in the regular season, Byron looks to be in good shape to qualify for the championship playoffs, which would be his first appearance in the postseason. Even with many things trending upward, Byron is honed in on what he needs to do to be a better driver.
“It’s always (about) making sure my feedback is actually making the car go faster,” he said. “I’m trying to make sure that I’m giving accurate info. I feel like I typically do that, it’s just doing it at a higher level, quicker pace, making sure that I’m dotting my I’s and crossing my T’s in practice in everything that I do during the weekend.”
But in the end, being in the Cup Series is what Byron thought it would be.
“I would say the first year was a grind for sure and this year I feel like I’m having way more fun,” said Byron. “I guess I’m getting to appreciate it now, where the first year was a struggle and nothing went right. This year, I really enjoy coming to the track and getting to work.”