After Hendrick Motorsports announced that Kasey Kahne would be out of the No. 5 car at the end of the 2017 season, Internet speculation ran wild on who would fill his seat, with most reports pointing to William Byron being the most logical choice to take his place. On Wednesday, Byron’s move up to the Monster Energy Cup Series became official as Hendrick announced that he will debut in NASCAR’s premier series next season.
Byron’s move cements the Hendrick lineup for 2018 as he will join seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, and Alex Bowman in the team’s four car stable.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Byron. “Mr. (Rick) Hendrick has built such a great team. The people at Hendrick Motorsports have dedicated their lives to giving their drivers the best chance to win every weekend. I have a responsibility to them to work hard and put everything I have into this opportunity. They need to know I’m always giving 100 percent because that’s what they do.
“When I told my parents that I wanted to drive race cars, they supported me and believed I could do it. Without them, there’s no way this would be possible. Axalta and Liberty University are awesome partners, and I’m so thankful for their faith in me. I’m going to do all I can to make my family, my sponsors and my teammates proud and represent them all in the right way.”
Currently driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr’s NASCAR Xfinity Series team, JR Motorsports, Byron’s move up to Cup in 2018 continues his rapid ascension through the ranks as the 19-year old only started racing professionally in 2014 after a successful start in iRacing.
In 2014, Byron competed for JRM in their late model program, winning 11 times before moving up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2015. His 2015 season ended with four wins and the championship, which in turn led to him landing a ride with Kyle Busch Motorsports for the 2016 season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Byron’s run in the Truck Series culminated in the most successful rookie season ever in the series after he won seven races, along with 11 top-five finishes, 16 top-10 finishes, three poles, 727 laps led, and an average finish of 9.2. He would be named the Rookie of the Year after finishing fifth in points.
After his success in the Truck Series, Byron moved back under the Hendrick umbrella this season with JRM, where he has continued to run up front and win races. Through the first 20 races of the season, Byron sits second in points, winning three times, most recently at Indianapolis, and has scored seven top-five finishes, 14 top-10 finishes, one pole, 160 laps led, and an average finish of 9.5.
“At every step, William has proven how quickly he can adapt,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Some drivers have raw talent and some have a strong work ethic. William has both. It’s impressive to see a young guy who never gets rattled and instinctively knows how to communicate with his team. That level of commitment, poise and pure ability is rare at any age. I think he’s just scratching the surface.”
For his debut season in the No. 5 car for Hendrick Motorsports, Byron will have sponsorship from Axalta and Liberty University for the majority of the season. Both currently sponsor him in the Xfinity Series and Liberty has sponsored him since his start in Late Models in 2014. HMS noted that any additional sponsors for the rookie will be announced at a later date.
“To have this opportunity with a new partner (to Hendrick Motorsports) in Liberty University and to grow what’s been an incredible long-term relationship with Axalta, it’s very special,” Hendrick said. “These are two sponsors who have already built effective programs around our sport and now see even more possibilities. It’s a big compliment to William, who has been a terrific ambassador for them both, and we look forward to a bright future together.”