William Byron Sets Sights on NASCAR Truck Title

At age 18, William Byron might be a fresh face in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Sure, he wasn’t even around for the 1997 season when Jack Sprague claimed his first Truck title.

Despite being one of the youngest racers in one of the top three national championship series of NASCAR, Byron’s racing resume is quite impressive.

Initially making his mark in the world of iRacing before making his way into late models, the Charlotte, NC native has flexed his muscle on the track, racing for the likes of current stock car icons like Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kyle Busch over the years.

Byron has been in the midst of an incredible Truck season in 2016. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Byron has been in the midst of an incredible Truck season in 2016. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Consistent finishes and four wins led Byron to rookie honors and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East title last year, netting him his current drive with the No. 9 Liberty University Toyota Tundra effort fielded by Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Much like last year in the K&N East Series, Bryon has been impressive in the Truck Series in 2016, logging six wins, including his most recent victory in last Saturday’s UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  Byron punched his ticket into the Round of 6 in convincing style, putting together quite a dominant driving performance at “The Magic Mile.”

As the current points leader in The Chase, Byron expressed confidence with the preparation that he and his No. 9 team have put forth to prepare for the final races of this season.

“I think the competition and the intensity is going to ramp up here in these races,” Byron said. “We’ve seen that in the Cup series and now we’re going to experience that here in the Truck series.  I’m looking forward to it.

Our team is ready for it.  We have the right trucks lined up and we’re coming to race tracks that we really enjoy coming to, so I’m looking forward to it.”

To say the least, Byron and his team, led by crew chief Ryan Fugle, aced their first round of exams, if you will, of The Chase.  With nine top-fives and 11 top-10’s through the first 17 races of the season, it’s easy to see why this combination is the odds-on favorite for the Truck title.

Throughout the years, Byron’s had great mentors in the sport like Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kyle Busch.  Naturally, he’s had some advice that’s paid dividends for him, especially as the competition has picked up with The Chase.

With a future as bright as Byron's, it's incredible how poised this young racer is with the mission at hand. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

With a future as bright as Byron’s, it’s incredible how poised this young racer is with the mission at hand. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

“Kyle has given a ton of advice this year,” Byron said.  “Dale gave a lot of advice when I was racing late models for him in just the importance of having fun and enjoying what you’re doing.  This is all exciting and fun and we’re really looking forward to what we do in The Chase.”

Along with having fun and focusing on the mission at hand, it’s safe to say that Byron was reminded of the fundamentals to minimize mistakes during race day.

“Those guys have given me pointers as well,” Byron said.  “The importance of pit road, restarts, everything, all of the intangibles that make up the race that are really important.  Those are probably the biggest things that Kyle’s been able to teach us over the last couple of weeks to get ready for The Chase.”

Much like 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, Byron’s interest in racing was catalyzed by video games during his early teenage years.

Nowadays, simulation games like iRacing are more of an escape than a dress rehearsal on the track.

Byron races alongside his KBM teammate Christopher Bell. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Byron races alongside his KBM teammate Christopher Bell. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

“It helps a little bit,” Byron pointed out.  “Now that I’m racing in the Truck Series, it’s a little bit different.  I take a lot of what I learn on the race track and apply it.  There’s also things that I can go and have fun and keep my racing and sense of everything going when I’m online too.”

While there may not be a lot of takeaways for Byron with iRacing, he has raced alongside some Cup stars.  A true competitor in a stock car on the track or in the online world, he doesn’t cut much slack to his peers.

“Dale Jr used to be on there on a little bit but he’s a little busy now,” Byron said with a grin.  “I think there’s a few guys, like Landon Cassill, and a couple of guys like that.  I try to give them a hard time!”

One thing that Byron doesn’t have a hard time with is focusing on the mission at hand.

In the midst of one of the most dominant Truck seasons in the series’ history, Byron wasn’t thinking about his next opportunity in NASCAR with JR Motorsports as a Hendrick Motorsports prospect.

To put it succinctly, as John Trusler once said, “There’s no time like the present.”

“They’ve got a great organization over there at JRM and Hendrick,” Byron mused.  “That’s exciting, but right now, I’m focused on this year and these races.  It’s hard to look past that.  We’re going to try to win a championship here and be excited about next year when it comes.”

In terms of this year, should we expect Byron to be like Carl Edwards if he wins the Truck championship this November at Homestead-Miami Speedway?

Backflips? No thanks. Donuts? Yes. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Backflips? No thanks. Donuts? Yes. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

“Probably not a backflip!” Byron said with a chuckle.  “Nope, probably not.  Not too nimble.”

Instead, look for Byron to display that tenacious poise and determination that has been on display all season long, letting his driving do the talking when it truly matters.

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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