As the youngest driver in the Hendrick Motorsports stable, William Byron needed time to develop into a successful NASCAR Cup Series talent. After all, he started his racing career at 15 and made his Cup debut just five years later.
Now, after two early wins in 2022, Byron has his future decided. On Thursday, Hendrick Motorsports announced a three-year extension for Byron through 2025. His current deal was set to expire at the end of the season.
“It certainly means a lot,” Byron said in a media availability Thursday. “It’s just been a special few weeks – to get the wins that we did and then have this announcement today is obviously great. I’m really excited for it. Excited for the next few years and just want to keep building what we’re doing with our No. 24 team. I feel like we’re really starting to build good momentum.”
Byron debuted in Cup in 2018 and recorded just four top 10s. In 2019, he recorded 13 top 10s and made the playoffs for the first time. One year later, in likely a must-win situation to make the playoffs, Byron won his first race at Daytona International Speedway in the regular-season finale.
In 2021, Byron won the third race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway and finished 10th in points after 20 top-10 finishes. Now, in 2022 with the Next Gen car, Byron sits third in points with a pair of victories and four top-10s.
“William is a tremendous driver and a truly exceptional young man,” said Rick Hendrick, Hendrick Motorsports owner, in a team release. “As impressed as I am by his innate ability inside a race car, I admire his character and maturity even more. William is on an amazing trajectory, and I believe he’s only just begun to scratch the surface of his potential. We are fortunate to have him in our stable.”
Byron is the fourth and final Hendrick driver to sign an extension in the last 12 months. Last summer, both Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson signed contracts through 2023. In February, Chase Elliott signed a deal through 2027.
“It was a little different, but I think it’s really fair,” Byron said. “This is kind of my first deal outside of my rookie contract and I think that it’s good to kind of understand the economic sense of the sport a little bit more as I’ve gotten older, and start to understand all of the moving parts and what goes into it.”
Byron will be under contract through 2025, which will be the first season under a new TV deal. The economics of the next TV deal may have limited Byron’s extension to just three years.
“I think our sport is going through a big change; a change for the better,” Byron said. “We’re really thriving I think as a sport – seeing how much the fans are turning out to the races, how the TV ratings are and things like that. It’s exciting. For somebody like me coming into the sport, I’m 24 years old and hopefully have a long career ahead. I want to see this sport do well. I want to see fans be interested in what I’m doing.”
Byron certainly isn’t the only Hendrick driver to have success wheeling the No. 24 car. Jeff Gordan, vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, wheeled the car for 23 seasons before retiring from full-time racing in 2015.
Now in an administrative role with the team, Gordon serves as a role model and mentor for Byron.
“I think he’s just made me comfortable in the Cup Series and made me understand what’s important,” Byron said. “He’s been good for me, but also good for the race team and good for Rudy (Fugle, crew chief). He’ll come into our 24 room and he’ll talk about race tracks, what to expect and what he thinks is important. That’s cool because he’s won at a lot of places, so I think it’s great information.”
This weekend, the Cup Series travels to Darlington Raceway before three consecutive events on intermediate tracks, including the All-Star Race on May 22.
“I think Darlington is kind of my biggest question mark, just getting through that,” Byron said. “We’ve been to a couple of high-speed race tracks. It’s been a while since we went to Las Vegas, but we were obviously good there. We finished fifth and had a good result. I’d see us being strong at Kansas, for sure.”
Sunday’s race at Darlington is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1.