William Byron Seeks Strong Finish to 2021

Although William Byron may be out of the Playoffs, he's still got at least 24 reasons to keep optimistic. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Although William Byron may be out of the Playoffs, he’s still got at least 24 reasons to keep optimistic. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

While William Byron may be out of the hunt for this year’s championship hunt, he’s still got plentiful reasons to keep motivated. After all, the fourth year NASCAR Cup Series racer possesses incredible race craft and awareness for multiple wins before the season closes out.

At the ripe age of 23, Byron continually evolves as a competitive, frontrunning driver. In fact, the Charlotte, North Carolina native earned three consecutive NASCAR Playoff berths for his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet team.

Following an 11th place points finish in 2019, Byron slipped three spots last year. However, the young racer logged his first Cup win in the 400-miler at Daytona on Aug. 29, 2020.

Moreover, after two years with legendary crew chief Chad Knaus at the helm, Byron reunited with former Kyle Busch Motorsports head wrench Rudy Fugle starting this season.

William Byron's No. 24 livery is best summated by Chicago's song "Old Days." (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

William Byron’s No. 24 livery is best summated by Chicago’s song “Old Days.” (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Once the duo got past their Daytona debacles, they made a big splash with a dominant victory at Homestead. In fact, Byron and his Hendrick Motorsports brigade went on a streak of 11 consecutive top 10 results.

Although rain curtailed Byron’s march toward the top 10 in Austin, Texas, the Tar Heel State sensation scored a strong fourth in the 600-miler at Charlotte. Swept up in an incident at Sonoma resulting in a a 35th place finish, Byron took two steps forward with back-to-back podiums at Nashville and Pocono.

From there, Byron’s season has swung back and forth like Don Quixote chasing windmills. Sure, he had great highs like a sixth at Watkins Glen and a second at Michigan. Those great results were offset by six finishes of 12th or worse.

The up and down swings continued into the Round of 16 for Byron and company. A 34th at Darlington and 19th at Richmond placed Byron in a very difficult position for a Round of 12 spot heading into Bristol.

Keeping himself in the fight with a strong car and drive, the mild mannered lead footer nabbed a podium at Bristol. Locking a Round of 12 Playoffs spot, the good times came to a temporary halt at Las Vegas, Talladega and Charlotte ROVAL with finishes of 18th, 36th and 11th.

Running toward the front of the field at the ROVAL, Byron, seemingly in position for another podium, dropped to 11th after making contact with the wall. Understandably upset following his penultimate lap accident, he composed himself when fielding questions in the media bullpen.

Certainly, Byron brings his A game each weekend. (Photo: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

Certainly, Byron brings his A game each weekend. (Photo: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

“Yeah, it was great,” Byron said regarding his No. 24 car. “We had a really good car. Two of these three races in this round, we had an amazing car, probably capable of winning. And just, yeah, didn’t have things go our way there. So, you know, we at that point, when I got to third, my tires were shot and there’s only two laps to go. So, yeah, I wasn’t gonna win and you know, made a mistake to not finish third but at that point I was just mad.”

Byron did not need to be like Gary Hobson from CBS’ old dramedy “Early Edition” when he responded to a question about what he’d do with closing out the year.

“Just win and help our teammates in any way we can and try to win more races,” Byron said in a matter of fact tone.

Certainly, Byron served the role as the good, competitive Hendrick teammate last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Rolling off the grid from 12th spot, Byron showcased his might with an incredible effort in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500.

Finishing fifth in stage 1, Byron nearly took the stage 2 win against teammate Kyle Larson in a near photo finish. In the end, he placed a strong second as he worked with Larson in a plethora of late race restarts.

Undoubtedly, Byron summarized his strong Sunday effort at Texas in a way that best summarizes his season as of yet.

"I think all the key ingredients that it takes to win races is there and it’s been there." - William Byron (Photo: Landen Ciardullo)

“I think all the key ingredients that it takes to win races is there and it’s been there.” – William Byron (Photo: Landen Ciardullo)

“I think that, for us, over the course of this year, there has been a lot of good aspects and then there have been some aspects that have been disappointing,” he observed. “But I think all the key ingredients that it takes to win races is there and it’s been there. We won the third race of the year. So yeah. We’re very capable. It’s just about us putting together all the details to be successful. I think we’ve had a shot to win multiple races this year at different times.

“I think we’ve got all the good properties of a race team that it takes to win races, and Texas was a good example of that. Hopefully we have another shot to win this weekend.”

Ultimately, Byron, who made it known that he and his No. 24 team are “here to stay,” reflected on what he’s gained from Hendrick on and off the track.

"It’s been a great year and I feel like I’m just very comfortable in that environment." - William Byron (Photo: Sean Folsom)

“It’s been a great year and I feel like I’m just very comfortable in that environment.” – William Byron (Photo: Sean Folsom)

“I think the more time that I spend there, the more I love being there,” he shared. “I’ve really kind of grown into it being a home for me. When I started there, I felt a little bit uncomfortable. I felt like the place was bigger than me, and really kind of hard to fit in.

“And as I go, and I surround myself with people that have the same desires and interests and think the same way, I think we just get more and more comfortable. It’s been a great year and I feel like I’m just very comfortable in that environment.”

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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