Inside a NASCAR Cup Series team hauler is a lot of precious cargo. You can find things like tools, fire suits, electronics and of course, race cars.
Some new cargo is being transported on the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports this season, and it’s just as precious for William Byron. So much so they have a locker of their own in the lounge of the hauler.
In there, you’ll find the NOGGIN Boss — or those oversized hats you’ve seen Byron wear twice this year after winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway.
“I saw Josh Allen was wearing it in his postgame presser on Thursday Night Football and was like, ‘Man, that’s kind of goofy, funny and cool,” Byron said of the Buffalo Bills quarterback. “I might have seen it another time, but I don’t remember where. But with Josh in that was the first time I was like, ‘This would be a really fun idea to do for a win.’”
By January, Byron had planted the seed with his team race, which put his PR representative, Ashly Ennis, to work. Demand for the giant hats was so big after the college football national championship game that the first NOGGIN Boss — with a RAPTOR logo — arrived at the team hotel a day before the Busch Light Clash in the L.A. Coliseum.
However, Ennis was soon getting one made for every primary sponsor Byron’s Chevrolet features. Phoenix was the first race with Valvoline as the sponsor, and that hat was personally delivered to the hotel since the company is based there.
But NOGGIN Boss is not for everyday use. Byron was adamant he would only wear them for a race win.
“So, if we don’t win, it sucks,” he laughed. “If we win, we’ll get to use them. That was my rule. I hoped it would happen at the Clash; that would have been ideal. Or Daytona.
“Then Noah [Gragson] wore one of the grid at Daytona and I was like, ‘Oh man, this is throwing a wrench in my plans.’ But we still did it and it was memorable.”
NOGGIN Boss has become an official licensee of Hendrick Motorsports, the first NASCAR team to have an agreement with the company. Ennis now has six NOGGIN Boss hats in her office space, which are rotated into their locker depending on which sponsor is on the car.
“We could potentially reach 10 with the goal being to have two of each partner,” she said.
Multiple hats are needed. Not only did Byron wear it after the Phoenix win (pictured, top), but he also got Jeff Gordon to wear one in victory lane. Shortly after that, they were for sale to race fans.
Byron is well aware the hats have taken on a life of their own.
“It was fun,” he said. “I thought when we got out of the car at Vegas with it on, it was pretty goofy. I thought, ‘Man, I feel like a ham.’ But that was good. It’s good to make fun of yourself sometimes. I think Rudy [Fugle] was up in the air on it, but by Phoenix, he came around when he saw it again.”
Byron pointed out it’s all about having fun, and it’s not unfamiliar for a Hendrick Motorsports driver to do so. Jimmie Johnson donned a rainbow wig in driver intros and victory lane at Dover for a movie on his car, and he and his team wore giant foam ring hats after his sixth Cup Series championship win.
“It’s just something new and different,” said Byron. “I feel like victory lane is so boring sometimes because it’s the same thing with confetti and hat pictures. You’ve got to change it up.”
NOGGIN Boss has created some funny moments. The first hat was too big and covered most of Byron’s face, which led to some ingenuity with padding to make them all fit well.
There is also a process to getting the large hat to victory lane.
“We have an account executive at the track every weekend who will assist with victory lane,” said Ennis. “So with a handful of laps to go, they will station themselves at our team haulers, and as soon as the race ends, they not only grab the full organization hat bag, but in this case, they also grab the NOGGIN Boss hat from its locker.
“Once in victory lane, they hand it off to me, and I get it to William and for any photos that it’s needed.”
There is also a process of how Byron gets the NOGGIN Boss on because, as he learned after the first win in Las Vegas, trying to get out of the car wearing it doesn’t work. In Phoenix, it was handed to him, and one of his crew members helped put it on his head before he stood on the window.
The key is to duck out of the car and get the hat on before he emerges over the top of the car.
“But not get too ducked out or else it falls off,” he laughed. “Ideally, you’d have it for your start/finish line interview, but unfortunately, it doesn’t fit in the side pocket (in the car). I keep all my other belongings in the left side pocket, but that one is tough.”
As long as Byron doesn’t feel weird, he will keep NOGGIN Boss around for a while. The fun part for Byron is seeing how fans have taken to the large hats.
“I think people like them,” he said. “There was a guy in Phoenix that had one. I don’t know what it said, but he had one, and he said he was going to see me in victory lane, but I never saw the guy. So, I was bummed about that. We could have had a great selfie.”