Dropping the Hammer with William Byron

Certainly, William Byron must feel like he's on the Iron Throne with his stellar 2019 efforts. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

Certainly, William Byron must feel like he’s on the Iron Throne with his stellar 2019 efforts. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

Even though William Byron may be a sophomore in NASCAR’s premier division series, he races with confidence and poise.  In fact, the 21-year-old Charlotte, N.C. native makes his mark on the track in grand fashion in a legendary car.

Of course, the connection remains for Jeff Gordon fans with the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro.  After all, Byron’s ride resembles Gordon’s latter career colors from 2014 and ’15.  However, the 21-year-old makes additional memories for it and more with a brilliant sophomore season.

Furthermore, Byron’s strong efforts serve as a prelude for his bright future in NASCAR.  Regardless of the car and series, the young racer succeeds and overcomes obstacles as a stronger, wiser individual.

To say the least, Byron and crew chief Chad Knaus catalyze the iconic No. 24 team’s return as a genuine frontrunner, a staple since 1993.  Still, this combination wants more than poles and a strong points finish.  Rather, this determined team wants race wins and championships.

All in all, Byron enjoys and appreciates his stellar season as he expresses in this latest interview.  As a result, it may make that final follow-up question seem more poignant this time around.  With that, let’s start “Dropping the Hammer with William Byron!”

Rob Tiongson :  Since the spring Texas race, you’ve had a great season as you made the NASCAR Playoffs.  You sit inside the top-10 in points as of press time.  While I know you’d like to be in the Round of 8, how proud are you with the strong performances and results this year?

In the long run, Byron's confidence reflects with his efforts on the track. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

In the long run, Byron’s confidence reflects with his efforts on the track. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

William Byron :  It’s been great.  I mean, it’s a big improvement for me.  Just my excitement level of being at the track has been really high.  And I feel like we’ve just done a good job at improving from each week at the track.

Really, when you look at our second half of the season and our body of work, it’s been super positive.  So, I think that’s great and I think it’s going to correlate to this weekend and definitely moving forward.

Rob Tiongson :  Not only have you gained more on-track experience this season, you now have Playoffs experience which could pay off in future years.  How valuable is it that you’ve battled head-to-head with those you’ll likely compete against heading into the next decade?

William Byron :  It’s super valuable.  There’s kind of a point in time in my Cup career that running in the top-five or 10 was a distant possibility.  So, I think that just being able to feel comfortable there, it’s a different pace of a race up there.

I feel like that’s what’s helped me is having that experience this year.  Being able to be in the mix…I don’t know, there’s just so many things that I’ve learned this year that I haven’t been able to learn yet until this year.  So, it’s been awesome.

Rob Tiongson :  From the very start, you expressed your excitement and confidence with crew chief Chad Knaus atop the No. 24 pit box.  In what ways has your rapport strengthened with Chad since the spring? And what ways has he made you elevate your racing efforts?

In this case, Byron and Knaus gelled almost immediately off the bat. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

In this case, Byron and Knaus gelled almost immediately off the bat. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

William Byron :  Well, I think that we have a really consistent approach.  I feel like we show up to the track every week with a very similar setup and approach to what we’re doing.  I’m not ingrained in all of the details of the setup and all that.  But, they gave me a really consistent platform to work and we don’t really deviate from that too much.

So, I feel like that’s the key to success in a lot of race teams – it’s that consistency piece.  It has to be consistently good, but I feel like it has been consistently good for us.  So, I feel like that’s a lot of what makes a good race team.  And being a great race team is just focusing on that detail.

Rob Tiongson :  You made a few folks, myself included, think you were Jeff Gordon at Martinsville last weekend.  Along with this, making the Playoffs, and the Daytona 500 pole, what’s perhaps been some of the takeaways from this season?

William Byron :  Well, I think there was a point in time this season that the qualifying on the poles was awesome.  And that was a point in time in the season that was like a really cool thing.  And that was kind of something that we could hang our hat on.  Recently, I think it’s been how we’ve been performing in the races.

I think qualifying took a while to translate to the race.  It didn’t always translate.  What we tried to do to go fast in qualifying doesn’t always equal success in the race.  I think we had to work through that a little bit.  But, once we got past that, I feel like we started to produce better race finishes and overall, we’ve checked that next box off.  So, right now, it’s all about winning.

Rob Tiongson :  Certainly, you’ll be a catalyst for the next decade of NASCAR, a pivotal one for the series.  What are some of the things that you’re doing to ensure there’s that connection between yourself and fans while focusing on your on-track efforts?

Truly, Byron strives towards authentic connections with fans. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Truly, Byron strives towards authentic connections with fans. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

William Byron :   I think I try to give people a glimpse of what I do in my personal life.  But I’m not a super open person so I’m kind of an introvert when it comes to talking to people.  It’s been good getting to know a lot of fans around the track and there’s always a lot of 24 gear around the track.

It’s been cool.  I’ve been really fortunate to have that connection with the 24 car.  I think that’s helped close that bond between the old school fans and the new people.  So, I just try to make it relatable and show that what we’re doing is not that all that different.

Rob Tiongson :  If a major Hollywood production studio decided to do a movie about you and your racing career, which actor would you want this studio to choose to portray you on the big screen?

William Byron :  I was asked this the other day.  I think Tom Cruise, probably – he’s really cool. He’s getting kind of old, so it’d have to be in the next couple of years.  (chuckles)

Rob Tiongson :  Given your busy schedule, when you do have free time, what’s TV or streaming service show has recently caught your attention?

In addition to his aforementioned interest, Byron enjoys a certain winter pastime! (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

In addition to his aforementioned interest, Byron enjoys a certain winter pastime! (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

William Byron :   Oh, man.  I try to not watch that much TV to be honest with you.  But I love college football and I love watching it in my bus especially once we get done with practice.  Kind of with the way schedule have been this year, I’ve been able to watch a lot of it and I like that.  And the Panthers – I’m a big fan of theirs but I don’t get to watch their games much.

Rob Tiongson :  Let me guess – Liberty University happens to be your favorite team? (laughs)

William Byron :  Yea, yea. (laughs) They do well.  My cousin goes to Clemson so I’m going to go to the South Carolina-Clemson game during the offseason so that should be fun.

Rob Tiongson :  This next question comes from our Associate Editor Ashley Hobbs.  Which drivers from your career would you hire to your team, recruit to your team before they retire, and bring aboard to your team to conspire or do some pranks?

William Byron :  Which drivers? Oh, man. Well, nobody that I’ve raced against because I hope, I think, I’m hopefully better than them.  I think that growing up, I liked…kind of when I grew up racing, I’d say Jeff Gordon.  Him and Jeff Burton’s pretty good.  Jeff Burton was pretty good at tuning cars and knowing what to ask out of his racecars, so I think those two guys would be a pretty good start.

Rob Tiongson :  On a lighter note, when I asked what your NASCAR superlative would be, you said you’d be the “most likely to get lost.”  Have you since obtained a GPS so you’re most likely to lead the way?

As Primal Scream once sang, Byron is "movin' on up now." (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

As Primal Scream once sang, Byron is “movin’ on up now.” (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

William Byron :  Yea, I try not to be lost! (laughs) The new app on the iPhone, you can put in your home and work addresses so I’ve not gotten lost lately! (chuckles)

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to William Byron and Hendrick Motorsports for this special follow-up interview during the AAA Texas 500 race weekend!  Learn more about William on TwitterFacebook, and his official website!

Rob Tiongson

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

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. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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