Auburndale, FL (February 1, 2014)-It was a week that put an exclamation point on William Byron’s U.S. Legends Racing career. The 16-year old sophomore at Charlotte Country Day School won six out of six Pro Division races at Auburndale Speedway, the tricky asphalt semi-banked ¼ mile oval.
Byron and his Dad nearly got snowed in due to bad weather in Charlotte, N.C., but braved the treacherous roads and drove the nine-hour trip to make sure Byron practiced for the first race of the week. Byron would face the best cars in all of the divisions in a self-proclaimed “Big Money” race. His biggest challenge in the 50-lap event would come from one of his mentors, Doug Stevens, who maintained Byron’s car when he raced at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in the summer of 2013 and winning the Thursday Thunder Young Lions championship.
First up was qualifying and Byron wanted to win the pole. He knew if Stevens won the pole it would be tough passing the veteran racer. Byron turned the fastest lap capturing his first top qualifying effort at Auburndale Speedway.
“Winning the pole meant a great deal to me,” said Byron. “When I came to Florida last year I was just learning to drive the Legends car. I was basically a rookie with only a few races under my belt. To win the pole showed me how far I had come in just 12 months.”
Byron lined up first for 50 grueling laps with Stevens to his outside. The start would be critical. When the green flag flew Byron jumped to an early lead with Stevens in hot pursuit behind him. Driving a near flawless race Byron picked up his first win in the Sunshine State besting a star-studded field of Legends cars and leading all 50 laps.
“Wow, that was great,” said a jubilant Byron in victory lane. “Doug came up to me after the race and told me he didn’t have anything for me. I cannot tell how great that makes me feel. Coming from him makes this win very special.”
Sunday was a practice day and the Dennis Lambert-prepared team threw everything at the car but the kitchen sink to see how the No. 25 would react in sunny hot conditions. Monday rolled around and Byron was ready for the five straight days of racing.
Byron started off Monday the way he began Saturday winning the pole for the 25-lap main event. He lined his immaculate black and blue machine on the inside of the front row ready to challenge the quality U.S. Legends Pro Division field. Again the talented teen roared to the front and led all of the 25 laps. With the sun starting to set after a long day, Byron received his hardware for winning the race.
“It was another great day for our team,” beamed Byron. “My car worked perfectly and I can’t thank Dennis and Mark for their hard work.” Day number one was in the books. It was time for a night’s rest and then back to the track.
Tuesday and Wednesday were repeats of Monday with pole wins and wire-to-wire 25-lap wins. Thursday brought a new challenge.
“The car just felt a little off on Thursday in practice’” stated Byron. “Something was just a tad off and I wasn’t sure I could win the pole.”
Byron missed the top spot by a tick and started on the outside pole. He fell back to third on the start. He worked his way back up front when the leader lost his engine. On the ensuing restart, Byron went into the first turn and hit his brakes…nothing.
“I forgot to pump my brakes,” laughed Byron. “I slid up the track and fell back to fourth and now with only 25 laps in this race I needed to start moving.”
One by one the 2013 U.S. Legends Young Lions National Champion began to make his way back to the front. With laps running down Byron made the final move to take the lead and keep his winning streak intact.
“This was a tough race,” Byron added. “I really didn’t know if I could make it back to the front. Everyone raced me clean. This is a big win.”
With one race remaining William Byron had time to reflect.
“I never considered winning all five races this week…but after winning the big money race it gave me a lot of confidence. Just hoping tomorrow goes as well.”
Friday was much of the same as the first four races with Byron winning the pole and besting the field in 25 flawless laps. In Victory Lane Byron seemed almost stunned.
“This is incredible,” said the 33-time winner in 2013. “I say it an awful lot but I can’t thank my parents and Dennis Lambert for my great car.”
The nine-hour ride home for Byron went quick. He was thinking about March 8… the day he debuts behind the wheel of his No. 9 Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned Liberty University-sponsored late model.