By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the top-30 drivers in the series leading into next month’s 60th running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: Rookie
Career Wins: Four Xfinity Series wins and seven Truck Series wins
Biggest Accomplishment: 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion
William Byron’s rapid ascension through the NASCAR ranks has him ready to tackle the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018 as he climbs behind the wheel of the famous No. 24 car for Hendrick Motorsports this season.
After starting in the late model division back in 2014 for JR Motorsports, it’s been a steady march up the ladder for the 20-year old, racking up win after win along the way and culminating in the Xfinity Series championship last season.
All told, Byron has scored four wins and the title in the Xfinity Series, seven wins in the Truck Series, and four wins and the title in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East over the last three years, but his biggest challenge lies ahead as he moves up to the Cup Series in 2018.
“It’s definitely going to be a big challenge. There are a lot of new things that I have to think about and approach differently, but I think this year is going to be a really good year for us. We have a great team, and I feel like everyone at Hendrick is ready to get to the racetrack. There’s a lot of excitement and new things that we’re approaching.
“This is really a dream come true to be part of the Cup Series and be with a great race team that has a chance to win. I think, for us, we’re going to try to win races. We have all the resources and tools to do that and we’re trying to focus those in the right areas to make sure we’re ready for the season.”
Despite the task ahead, Byron won’t just be thrown into the deep end and forced to sink or swim as he’ll have his teammates (seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, and Alex Bowman) to lean on, as well as having an experienced voice on top of his pit box in Darian Grubb. Moving back to a crew chief role at the end of 2017, Grubb will help guide the youngest member of the Hendrick stable throughout his rookie campaign.
Grubb has been at Hendrick Motorsports for the majority of his professional career, first joining the organization in 2003 as a race engineer for Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 team. Grubb served in that role through the end of the 2006 season, even getting a promotion up to interim crew chief for four races in 2006, winning the Daytona 500 and at Las Vegas two weeks later.
Grubb moved over to Casey Mears’ team in 2007, leading his driver to a win in the Coca-Cola 600 before being named the engineering manager for the No. 5 and No. 88 teams the following season.
In 2009, Grubb left Hendrick to become crew chief for the No. 14 team at Stewart-Haas Racing, winning 11 races and the 2011 championship with Tony Stewart. He would move over to Joe Gibbs Racing from 2012 to 2015 to be crew chief for Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards, winning a total of nine races over those four seasons.
Grubb returned home to Hendrick in 2016 as the vehicle production director and was promoted to director of competition systems last year before being named as crew chief.
“He (Grubb) has a lot of experience,” Byron added. “He’s been with a lot of different drivers and has won with every one of them. You don’t find people like that very often, and I feel like he’s an asset to our organization. He’s won a championship in the Cup series with Tony Stewart and they went on an incredible run, and I feel like we’re both most comfortable when we’re working around the racetrack and working in that environment. I think the combination of the two of us is going to make for good calls and aggressive decisions. I feel he’s pretty aggressive with how he approaches the weekend, and you want somebody like that.”