By Brooke Franceschini, NASCAR
October 6, 2015 - 3:01pm
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – William Byron can add another accolade to his resume.
The 17-year old, Charlotte, North Carolina, native and 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion became just the fifth driver to win the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title in their championship season.
Byron edged HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks teammate Dalton Sargeant on a tiebreaker to earn the honor. Both finished with 99 points in the rookie standings and Byron earned the Rookie of the Year by virtue of finishing higher in the overall standings.
Byron joined Joey Logano (2007), Ryan Truex (2009), Kyle Larson (2012) and Ben Rhodes (2014) to earn both the rookie of the year and series championship in the same season.
“It feels really good to be awarded the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award and join such a great group of winners,” Byron said. “There was such great rookie talent in the K&N East this year and it feels good to come out on top. To win both the Rookie of the Year award and the championship is such a rewarding experience for me and my team.”
Byron earned four wins, three poles, five top fives and 11 top 10s in 14 races while leading a series-high 740 laps.
The 2015 season saw 34 talented rookie drivers vying for the elite title in the K&N East, including Byron’s teammates Sargeant, Rico Abreu and JJ Haley, who finished second, third and fourth, respectively, in the Rookie of the Year standings.
Rookies accounted for eight wins, with Kyle Benjamin, Abreu, Dillon Bassett and Collin Cabre also visiting Victory Lane.
“This season started off fast paced with the rookies,” said Byron. “My team and I knew early on Sargeant would be tough competition after his second-place finish at New Smyrna. We counted on Abreu and Dillon Bassett challenging us as well. We figured that if we won the championship, the Rookie of the Year honors would be ours, too, so we set out to do just that.”
“Our first win at Greenville Pickens Speedway really jump started us and the season. We just kept our heads down and did the best we could to finish the best we could.”
The highest finishing rookie in a race receives 10 points, second receives nine, third gets eight and so on. So despite leading the championship standings, Byron entered the finale Saturday at Dover International Speedway one point behind Sargeant. He finished ninth at Dover and Sargeant was 11th to clinch the award.
Earning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the K&N East has gone a long way toward advancing a driver’s career in recent seasons. Starting with Logano in 2007, every Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the series have gone on to compete in NASCAR’s national series, including four drivers – Logano, Austin Dillon (2008), Alex Bowman (2011) and Larson who are full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Byron will be formally recognized as the 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year at the NASCAR Touring Series Awards on Saturday, Dec. 12 in the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.