Hendrick Motorsports took a gamble on William Byron. Now he’ll try to win his 1st Cup title

William Byron (24) steers through Turn 12 during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Concord, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)Driver Kyle Larson waits for the start of the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023 in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee ).Christopher Bell celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Homestead, Fla.

Something about the 15-year-old struck Hendrick, who recognized a young talent with a potentially bright future in NASCAR. Hendrick snagged Byron away from the Toyota camp in 2016, promoted him to the Cup Series in 2018 when he was 20 years old and fresh off an Xfinity Series championship and gave him the tools to become a star.

It’s paid off as Byron heads to Phoenix Raceway this week with a shot at winning his first Cup title. With a Cup Series-high six wins this season, Byron seemed a lock to make the championship finale but had to squeeze out every position Sunday at Martinsville Speedway to edge Denny Hamlin for the fourth spot in the winner-take-all title race. headtopics.com

It’s the kind of performance Hendrick expected out of Byron, who he likens to the late David Pearson, a three-time Cup champion and Hall of Famer. In a heavyweight Hendrick lineup that includes Cup champions Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, as well as Alex Bowman, Hendrick believes Byron is his hardest worker and has proved all his early doubters wrong.

“When I moved him into the No. 24, I had a lot of doubters. Not in our company, but I read all the stuff that people said he wasn’t ready,” Hendrick said. “To see him blossom and turn into the driver he has, it’s been phenomenal. William has always been pretty calculating, and he doesn’t drive over his head and he’s won races this year by making some aggressive moves. headtopics.com

“He’s the guy you want your daughter to marry. He’s smart. He studies, he’s in the simulator, he’s planning and he really thinks he’s the best driver out there.”

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