Youngster Byron drives for consistency
By Tom Gillispie
Two things come to mind about Late Model driver William Byron’s rookie season at Hickory Motor Speedway. He is precocious, and he’s been consistent.
As for the precocious part, Byron, 16, hasn’t been racing go-karts since he was five. He has only been racing two seasons, and he’s been super successful in that short time. Just this season, he’s posted 12 poles and 10 wins in 23 Pro Legends starts and seven poles and one win (at HMS) in 26 Late Model starts.
As for consistent, he’s posted 20 top-five finishes in Pro Legends and 14 top-fives in Late Models. At Hickory, he’s posted one win, six second-place finishes and three thirds.
“The win came at Hickory in September,” he said, “and we beat some good guys. I had to learn over the course of the year, and I was just consistent over the year. I had to wait (for the win) until the time came, and I took advantage.”
He and Jr Motorsports teammate Josh Berry posted wins that night in September when HMS ran two Late Model races. Byron wound up second to Berry in Late Model points.
He says the season went pretty much as he expected, but added, “I didn't win as many races as I would have liked.”
He’s been busy in his two years of racing. He ran upwards of 70 races last year, and he’s run 49 races this year. He says he has seven races left to run in 2014; the first is one in southern Alabama, and one of them is the Oct. 25 Fall Brawl at HMS.
He says he hooked up with Jr Motorsports because of his big season in Pro Legends. They interviewed him, and, “We came to a deal,” he said.
And, yes, he’s had some contact with team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“We had a (TV) commercial early year, and we were kind of able to hang out with him,” he said. “We’ve done charity events and meetings with the whole shop. It’s been good. What little we’ve talked has been very positive. He watches what we're doing, and it’s cool to get shoutouts from him over Twitter.”
Byron says he has two favorite memories of this season.
“Winning the race (at HMS) was most the most fun moment and also the most rewarding,” he said. “It was a lot of relief off me. It was a moment that was awesome.”
The other highlight came in a Legends race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I beat Daniel Hemric in one of the races in the Summer Shootout,” he said. “Considering how high he is in the Late Model world and Super Late Models, that was great. I felt like I was in the zone in that race.”
The 5-9, 140-pound Byron is a junior at Charlotte Country Day and a freestyler on the swim team. His Late Model sponsor is Liberty University, and he says he plans to attend the Virginia school when he graduates from Country Day. His major? Who knows?
He says he won’t race for points at Hickory next year, but he’ll be back.
“I’d like to do half the 100-lappers, do the 150-lappers, do the Bobby Isaac race,” he said. “I’m interested in traveling to different tracks.”
He wants to run the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East next year, but he’s not sure what his goals will be.
“I'd say I’d like to win one or two K&N races; that would be pretty cool,” he said. “On the Late Model side, that would be hard to say. With traveling around, it would be hard to tell. I’d just like to be consistent.”
Consistent? He has a good start on that.
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