In the Fast Lane with William Byron

William Byron's future is so bright, he needs to wear shades. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

William Byron’s future is so bright, he needs to wear shades. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

At the raw, young age of 19, William Byron of Charlotte, NC has showcased his prowess and tenacity on the track like a veteran NASCAR racer.  For this reason, he’s quite the exciting talent to follow in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Of course, Byron is in the midst of his rookie campaign in this division of NASCAR.  Presumably, he’s supposed to make laps, gradually make gains, and follow the veterans on the track, right.

In this case, it’s a flat out no. Byron approaches each weekend methodically and with a winning attitude.  Presently working with crew chief David Elenz, the driver of the No. 9 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro has made his presence known weekly at the front of the field.

Furthermore, Byron ranks third in the points standings following his triumph last Saturday night at Iowa Speedway. Above all, he remains humble and grounded despite the early season success.

Byron is gracious in defeat and humble with his success. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Byron is gracious in defeat and humble with his success. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Even in defeat, such as the close call in the Irish Hills 250 at Michigan International Speedway, this young man remains focused at the task at hand for his team. Clearly, this is a driver prepared for primetime NASCAR action.

At any rate, Byron has the makings to be a future superstar in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.  However, the here and now point the Liberty University student in the NASCAR Xfinty Series, where names are made.

Prior to the Irish Hills 250 at Michigan International Speedway, I spoke with Byron about his rookie campaign and how he’s acclimated to his racing home with JR Motorsports. No doubt, he’s enjoying his current opportunity competing in this exciting division with a premier team.

With that in mind, let’s strap in the passenger seat and head out “In the Fast Lane with William Byron!”

Rob Tiongson :  William, this is your rookie year into the Xfinity Series, but you’re having a pretty terrific season to say the least.  Right now you’re third in the points standings.  It’s your first time out in Michigan in the Xfinity car. What’s the transition been like going from Trucks to this division, and do you find that there’s some similarities between the two cars?

Byron's determination on the track has rewarded him with his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Iowa Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Byron’s determination on the track has rewarded him with his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Iowa Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

William Byron :  I think the transition’s just been a little bit longer races, more pit stops, more competition.  All those things are important.  Those are probably the biggest things.  Racing some of the Cup guys every week.  But compared to the truck, I think it drives relatively similar.

There’s a few differences on some of the bigger racetracks and just carrying more speed with the Xfinity car.  But not too different.  I think it’s all just kind of adapting.  We got a chance to test earlier in the year, and that kind of helped that.  So, at this point, kind of used to how the cars drive, and just week to week trying to get the most out of your stuff.

RT :  I would say that you’re definitely getting the most out of your stuff. You’re also a very fast learner with driving in NASCAR.  Noticed that with the truck season that you had last season.  Really strong, almost won the championship.  Would you say that your past experiences in the Legends cars have been an asset for you as a driver?

Byron is either a fortune teller or simply loves racing at Iowa Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Byron is either a fortune teller or simply loves racing at Iowa Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

WB :  Yeah, I think so.  I think that racing the Legend cars really helped me just get used to short track racing and restarts, and how to just hold on the outside, or different things to make sure you keep your positions on the racetrack.  But yeah, it’s all kind of helped me in different ways, I think.  But at this point, just kind of trying to take all that stuff and apply it.

RT :  And other things that you’ve applied, like you’ve raced with Kyle Busch’s team.  You’ve been with Dale Jr. in two tenures technically, with the late model team.  What are the greatest two things they’ve taught you as a driver that you’ve felt that has helped you with picking up on some nuances, or even some of the off-track stuff as a driver?

WB :  Yeah.  I think, you know, Dale’s taught me a lot about the off-track stuff, and we’ve been able to do a few things together in that aspect and go around, and that’s been really cool.  And Kyle’s always been really good at restarts, so he’s taught me a lot about restarts and how to time those up and everything.  So, just important tools there to use, and can’t thank those guys enough for what they’ve given me, and the lessons that I’ve learned from them.

RT :  The thing with JR Motorsports is you’ve got a wide berth of resources in terms of teammates, the equipment, and all.  How helpful has it been to have teammates like Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, and Michael Annett, in making the transition to this series? Also, what are you learning from them?

Byron duels with teammate Justin Allgaier at Iowa Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Byron duels with teammate Justin Allgaier at Iowa Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

WB :  Yeah.  It’s been really important, really helpful for me to learn from all three of those guys.  There’s been a lot of lessons to learn.  I think Elliott’s been really good on restarts, and Justin’s been really fast, so just trying to keep up with those guys, and Michael, trying to learn from him too.  So, I think to have us one-two-three in the points is pretty good.  Hopefully, we can keep that going.  Hopefully, we can get a few wins here during the summer.

RT :  Is there a particular track in mind?  I know you guys want to win at every track, but is there a certain track where you’re saying, “Well, maybe I’ve got an even better shot than most other tracks,” that you’re definitely keeping an eye on?

Byron applies a balance between aggression and patience when driving the No. 9 Axalta Chevrolet. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Byron applies a balance between aggression and patience when driving the No. 9 Axalta Chevrolet. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

WB :  You know, probably this weekend and Iowa, I think.  Iowa, I won there in the Truck and the K&N car, so hopefully Iowa’s good to us.  And I think Michigan’s been good to these guys, so if we can kind of carry over some of that speed, I think it’s going to be really helpful for us.  So, looking forward to the next two.

RT :  I’ve got a couple quick questions for you.  It’s Father’s Day weekend, a very special holiday for you drivers. Whether you’re a father or not, I’m sure you’ve got a favorite story to share.  Is there a particular memory you have of Father’s Day?

WB :  Man, on Father’s Day?  I think last year, I think I won Iowa on Father’s Day weekend, so that was pretty cool. Either Iowa or Texas, I think we won both back-to-back.  So hopefully we can do that this year or something. (laughs)  But yeah, that’s probably the coolest memory was having him there at Iowa last year, and hopefully this year.  He’s going to be here at Michigan, so hopefully we can do that too.

RT :  I’m going to end this interview on a really funny note.  I know that JR Motorsports is pretty unique with their social media outlet.  They’ve got the Dale Jr. Download and all.  But, have their been any hijinks or any rookie pranks played on you since you’re a freshman in the series?

No joke about it - William Byron is the real deal! (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

No joke about it – William Byron is the real deal! (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

WB :  You know, we had the JRM 360 a few weeks ago, so that was pretty fun to do, about the Dash 4 Cash deal.  So, that was funny.  But other than that, no, not yet.  (laughs)  Hopefully if we get a win, hopefully there’s…I’ll be good for any pranks.

RT : And no paybacks any time soon!

WB :  No!  (laughs)

RT :  That’s the way we want it!

Author’s Notes :  Special thanks to William Byron and the JR Motorsports team with this feature on TPF! Photographs accompanying this feature are courtesy of Jeremy Thompson, whereas noted. If you’d like to learn more about William and his team, “Follow” them on Twitter, “Like” their Facebook page, and “Visit” their official website!

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. Born and raised in the Boston, MA area, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it’s about anything with an engine and four wheels, you’ll likely see an article on The Podium Finish by either myself or one of my talented columnists who absolutely have the motorsports passion.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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