From Sporting News - Rea White
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Rick Hendrick has always had an eye for finding driving talent. Just look at his current roster that includes six-time champion Jimmie Johnson and hotshot rookie Chase Elliott.
Earlier this week, he signed William Byron to join the organization. Byron is a rookie sensation in the Camping World Truck Series with a season-high five wins. The 18-year-old is the points leader driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Hendrick said that he sees the full package in Byron — a driven competitor who also excels off the track. Byron is pursuing his college degree at Liberty University (which currently sponsors his Truck entry) while also chasing success on the track.
It’s been a combination that has worked so far.
When Hendrick says that Byron has won in everything in which he has raced, he means it. He won the U.S. Legend Young Lions Division championship in 2013 — his first season of competing in it. He won the K&N Pro Series East championship in his 2015 rookie season.
Hendrick had met Byron earlier in the young driver’s career and the driver told him at the time that he wanted to drive for Hendrick someday. Now that’s more than a dream.
“To finally have that opportunity and for things to come together the way they have is really incredible,” Byron said on Saturday. “Just really impressed and thankful that Mr. Hendrick’s investing in me and wants to see my future, see it through. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this year in the Truck Series also, but I can’t wait for next year at JRM.”
In some respects, Byron is a bit of a late-comer to the racing world. He went to his first race when he was 6, then started iRacing at 13. He was 14 before he ever got into a “real car.”
He was impressive from the moment that Hendrick met him, though.
“I just remember more than anything that day back at JRM when he came up, how polished and kind of persuasive or determined (he was) to get in the car in our organization,” Hendrick said.
He watched Byron racing and then met him and his dad. He said he was impressed first with the person, then with his racing.
And as Byron got more successful, Hendrick decided he’d make his move and sign the young driver.
“I can’t believe that Jimmie Johnson or Dale or Jeff Gordon have turned 40 years old, but time moves on,” Hendrick said. “If you don’t get them young, then someone else is going to get them. … I think everybody is looking for that next superstar.”