ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: After rounding out his first season of NASCAR Cup Series competition by clinching 2018 rookie of the year honors, William Byron became just the second driver in history to win the award in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Cup Series in three consecutive seasons. He also became the third-youngest rookie of the year in Cup Series history at 20 years, 11 months and 20 days. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native joined Jeff Gordon (1993), Kyle Busch (2005) and Chase Elliott (2016), as the fourth driver to win rookie of the year with Hendrick Motorsports in Cup Series competition.
KNAUS’ KNOWLEDGE: Byron will hear a new voice on the other end of his radio for the 2019 season when seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief Chad Knaus climbs atop the pit box for the No. 24 team. After calling the shots for 17 seasons with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, it was announced on Oct. 10, 2018, that the Rockford, Illinois, native would rejoin the team he started his racing career with as a tire changer – the No. 24. Ranked second-most all-time among crew chiefs with seven NASCAR Cup Series championships behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Inman (eight), Knaus is the only crew chief to win five consecutive championships, from 2006 through 2010, with the No. 48. Calling the shots for 35 Cup races at Daytona International Speedway, Knaus has captured the checkered flag twice, sweeping the 2013 season by visiting Victory Lane in the season opener and following it up with a win in the summer at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
YEAR TWO IN THE TWO FOUR: With his rookie season in the rear-view mirror, Byron has already turned his focus to his first goal of 2019 – capturing his first Cup Series win. With a year of experience under his belt and a new crew chief in Knaus on the pit box, all eyes will be on Byron and the No. 24 team when the Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 hits the track for the first time.
AXALTA IS BRINGING THE HEAT: Continuing its partnership with Byron and Hendrick Motorsports, Axalta Coating Systems will kick off the 2019 season onboard the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Daytona Speedweeks. Keeping history alive, Byron will sport the iconic Axalta flames that fans are accustomed to seeing from the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team. As a leading global company focused solely on coatings and providing customers with innovative, colorful, beautiful and sustainable solutions, Axalta Coating Systems is continuing its 27-year partnership with Hendrick Motorsports as a primary partner for both the Nos. 24 and 88 teams in 2019. The company sponsored Gordon and the No. 24 team for 23 years beginning in November 1992 before moving to the No. 88 team in 2016 and sharing primary sponsorship with the No. 24 starting in 2018. This year, Axalta will return as primary partner on the No. 24 Chevrolet for 13 races.
TWENTY-FOUR TO THE TOP: In three of the last four DAYTONA 500 races, the No. 24 has started from the pole position – in 2015 with Gordon and in consecutive seasons, 2016 and 2017, with Chase Elliott. Last year, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman captured the pole, but Byron hopes to return the No. 24 to the top spot when his Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 hits the track for Sunday’s qualifying session.
BACK AT THE BEACH: After making his Cup Series debut in last year’s DAYTONA 500, Byron had a long day after starting at the rear of the field in a backup car and fighting handling issues for the last half of the race due to body damage sustained in an earlier incident. He ultimately finished the race in the 23rd position. Byron returned to the 2.5-mile superspeedway in July, qualifying 18th and ultimately leading 12 laps before getting caught up in an incident, relinquishing him to 32nd-place finish. However, despite his limited superspeedway experience, Byron has one Daytona win on his racing resume. During his 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship campaign, Byron qualified third in the July Daytona race and found himself at the front of the field when it mattered most, leading 29 laps to score the victory, becoming the youngest driver with an Xfinity Series win at Daytona at 19 years, 7 months and 1 day. Aside from his two Xfinity starts at Daytona, Byron also has one Truck Series start and one ARCA Racing Series start at the venue to his credit.
BEACH BUMS: Kicking off the 2019 NASCAR season in the "Sunshine State," three crew members on the No. 24 team will make their way back home for NASCAR’s Speedweeks. Longtime Hendrick Motorsports rear-tire changer Johnny Roberts hails from Titusville, Florida, just down the coast from Daytona Beach, where he spent most of his time surfing before making his way to North Carolina and eventually trying out for Hendrick Motorsports in 2010. New to the Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 24 team in 2019, engineer Brandon McSwain grew up approximately 100 miles from the “World Center of Racing” in Auburndale, Florida. Just a few miles down the road from where McSwain grew up, engine tuner Ben Proctor calls Lakeland, Florida, home.
DAYTONA DUELS: Byron will make his second start in the Daytona Duel qualifying races on Thursday, Feb. 14. In last year’s Duel, Byron started from the third position but was ultimately collected in a mid-race incident, relegating him to an 18th-place finish and a backup car for the 60th running of the DAYTONA 500.
TV TUNE-IN: National Geographic’s "Explorer" is in its 11th season of delving deep into untold stories from across the world, with host Phil Keoghan taking viewers into the ultimate mission of discovery. In 2018, Keoghan joined Byron and the No. 24 team to delve into the science of a race car. Make sure to tune in Monday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. ET to see what the "Explorer" group learned from their time with Byron and Hendrick Motorsports.
William Byron on the start of the season:
“We didn’t get to test this offseason, so our first real test as a team and with the car will be when we unload for Daytona Speedweeks. I think it’s going to be less of a learning curve for us though, hopefully. We’ve really jelled as a team so far, and now the rookie stripes are off and I have a better idea of what to really expect, not just at Daytona but at a lot of the tracks. I feel like last year we weren’t sure what to expect going into Daytona. We made progress when we went back to Daytona in the summer. I was even able to lead some laps, which helps. At the same time, though, no matter how prepared you may be, it's Daytona, and you can’t fully prepare for what may happen. It takes a little bit of luck to go along with it and being at the right place at the right time. Hopefully we have some of that go our way this year and start the year off on a high note. We have a full year with our equipment and we can start where we left off, which was pretty good at the end of the year. Who knows, it’s a new season and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Byron on working with new No. 24 team crew chief Chad Knaus:
“I think it’s a great learning opportunity for me. His experience is really extensive but he has not been set in his ways. That’s what I’ve noticed with him, he’s open to new things and I feel like that’s important. His work ethic is really high as well. I would say that’s really the biggest thing I’ve taken away from him. I feel like I will try to apply that as best I can. I don’t have to worry about him doing his job or worry about what the team is doing.
“The difference will be the expertise and his knowledge. He is very motivated to do it and that's really a great thing. We've got a lot of good, young people in our team, a lot of people who are ready to have a shot and win races. I'm looking forward to those things. I think the team is fresh and I think Chad’s expertise and knowledge will help us in the long term. So I'm really looking forward to work with him and the 24 team in 2019.”
Knaus on Byron and the 2019 season:
"I have a lot of respect for William. It’s amazing what he’s done in the short period of time that he’s been racing. It’s amazing to me. This is his first time in six seasons that he’s doing a repeat series. That is phenomenal. Think about that – nobody advances like that, so clearly he’s got a ton of talent and hopefully I can get him the product he needs and then extract more out of him.It’s definitely lit a fire back in me that I wouldn’t say died, but maybe helps transforms me into a more aggressive approach, which is definitely what we need.
“The goal is to win the Daytona 500, sit on the pole, win our 150 race, we’re the fastest in practice and lead every lap. That’s the goal. But the reality is it’s going to take a little time. My goal and our goal at Hendrick Motorsports is to have four teams that are capable of going out there and battling for wins and are in a position to battle for championships every single race and every single year. I feel that William has the ability to do that.”