LIBERTY RETURNS: This weekend, the blue-and-red Liberty University colors will adorn the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the ninth time this season. Liberty is the majority primary partner of the No. 24 team with 13 races in 2018. Liberty University, founded in 1971, offers more than 550 unique programs of study from the certificate to the doctoral level. William Byron, a sophomore majoring in business communications, takes online classes at Liberty, which offers more than 250 programs online, although the 20-year-old driver is currently enjoying a break from college courses over the summer.
AT DAYTONA: After two multiple-car incidents in the season-opening Daytona 500, Byron managed to finish the race, but was relegated to a 23rd-place finish in his initial NASCAR Cup Series outing. While the Charlotte, North Carolina, native might have only one Cup race under his belt at Daytona International Speedway, he’s already a Daytona winner. In his championship-winning 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, Byron led 29 laps and scored a victory in the July 1 race at Daytona after starting third, making him the only driver to win after leading the most laps in the last 11 Xfinity races at Daytona. His average finish at Daytona in the Xfinity Series is fifth. Prior to the 2017 season, Byron also raced at Daytona in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the ARCA Racing Series.
LOOKING FOR LADY LUCK: In two Cup superspeedway starts, Byron hasn’t had luck on his side, as he was involved in multi-car incidents at both Daytona and Talladega. However, the rookie of the year points leader led 14 laps at Talladega before being relegated to a 29th-place finish, putting him in second among Chevrolet drivers for laps led at superspeedways in 2018 and making him the youngest driver in Cup history to lead double-digit laps in a plate race. Byron spent 47 percent of the laps he raced at Talladega in the top 10 prior to the Lap-166 accident that left him 29th. With a little luck, he could easily bring home a solid finish at Daytona on Saturday night.
EXPERIENCE ON THE BOX: While Byron might be a rookie, No. 24 team crew chief Darian Grubb is no stranger to restrictor-plate success. He’s earned three wins on the track type, leading three different drivers to Victory Lane.
NO. 24 SPEEDWAY HISTORY: In the No. 24 Chevy, Jeff Gordon earned 12 victories at restrictor-plate tracks, the most of any driver all-time and the most for any car number all-time, and six of those came at Daytona International Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports has 24 wins at restrictor-plate tracks and Daytona boasts the most first-time winners (18) of any track on the Cup circuit, both good omens for Byron.
CLOSE TO HOME: For several members of the No. 24 Liberty University team, Daytona is considered a home track. Rear-tire changer Johnny Roberts grew up in Titusville, Florida, a mere 45 miles from Daytona International Speedway. Roberts has an unusual athletic background, coming from surfing as opposed to traditional sports. He’s been with Hendrick Motorsports since 2010 and in his current position as the starting rear changer since 2014. Engine tuner Billy Fraser hails from Callahan, Florida, which is 115 miles from the Daytona track. Fraser raced go-karts for about 10 years when he was younger. His grandparents owned a race shop and a local dirt track, and he grew up watching NASCAR races with his parents. Fraser knew he wanted to pursue a career in motor sports and molded his college experience around that goal, attending the University of Florida to obtain an engineering degree. He joined Hendrick Motorsports for the 2013 season. Spotter Tab Boyd is also a Florida native, although his hometown of Pensacola is closer to Talladega Superspeedway than it is to Daytona.
HERTZ SWEEPSTAKES: Hertz announced a sweepstakes where with the booking of a Hertz rental car, fans have a chance to be entered to win a VIP race weekend experience in Phoenix by using the provided promotional code when booking the rental car. The grand prize includes a trip for four to Phoenix from Nov. 9-12, four VIP tickets to the Nov. 11 race at ISM Raceway, a meet-and-greet with Byron, a tour of the No. 24 Hertz hauler, pit box seating with pit and garage access, round-trip airfare, a three-night hotel stay, and, of course, a Hertz rental car. The sweepstakes runs from July 1 to Aug. 15. Click here for more information or to enter.
POCONO VICTORY TOUR: On Wednesday, July 11, Byron will visit Boy Scouts Camp Minsi to spend time with the scouts and members of the media, racing canoes and fishing as part of the July Pocono Raceway Victory Tour. Byron himself became an Eagle Scout, the highest achievement rank of the Boy Scouts of America, in 2015 while racing full-time and attending high school. Media members interested in covering the event can reach out to Kevin Heaney, director of content and communications at Pocono Raceway.
William Byron on racing at Daytona:
“Daytona is going to be slick and hot, so the cars are going to handle even worse than they did in the (Daytona) 500, but Talladega was a good race for us until the final 10-15 laps, so I’ve got to look back at what I did before that point. I felt like I was pretty aggressive and got to lead some laps, and towards the end it just didn’t go our way. I think I’ll look back on that and try to understand what I could do better there to have a better result at Daytona. I think our goal is to have a really solid race and just finish the race.”