William Byron


Truck Series teen Byron competing in ARCA race

Truck Series teen Byron competing in ARCA race

June 1, 2016

By Scott Walsh, Times-Tribune:

It has been quite a month for William Byron.

On May 6, he won his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway in just his fifth career start. Then May 27, he graduated from Charlotte Country Day School.

Friday’s ARCA race is part of the NASCAR weekend at Pocono that includes the Xfinity Series on Saturday and the Sprint Cup Series on Sunday.

This will be Byron’s fourth career ARCA race. He finished second in the season opener at Daytona. Last season, he was second at Lucas Oil Speedway at Indianapolis and 32nd at Kentucky Speedway.

“An ARCA car is definitely a different animal than a truck,” Byron said. “So I’m going to take whatever I can since it won’t be identical to a truck. But it’s at least track time at Pocono. From what I’ve heard, it’s a very different race track. So hopefully we can get out there, get an ARCA win and learn as we go.”

For the rookie Byron, he is racing at many tracks for the first time. He tries to familiarize himself with them by using iRacing, the online subscription simulation service. He will also watch video of past races and on-board cameras.

“Some of the places, it’s hard to compare what they actually feel like versus what they feel like on iRacing,” Byron said. “But it’s at least a start and I can get a visual for what the tracks are like.

“But mainly, coming to these places for the first time, it’s a whole new ball game. I just have to make sure I maximize my practice time and in qualifying to get the best spot so we can to learn the most.”

He is proving to be a fast learner.

Driving the No. 9 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series, Byron is fifth in the standings after six races, 26 points behind leader Matt Crafton.

His win at Kansas came after he led 34 laps and avoided a crash between Ben Rhodes and leader Johnny Sauter on the final lap of the race.

“I grew up watching Xfinity races, Truck races, Cup races,” Byron said. “So to actually win one of those is an awesome deal.”

What was the coolest thing about winning? Having Dale Earnhardt Jr. congratulate you on Twitter.

“He had reached out to me before when I was racing late models,” Byron said. “But to see him have the reaction and be glad for me was really cool. A lot of other race car drivers reached out to me, too. So that experience was real neat.”

When he was 6 years old, Byron started watching races on television. In 2006, his father Bill asked him what special sporting event he wanted to take in that year. Byron picked the Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.

“My mom was like, ‘You’re not going to the races until you’re 18 because there are dangers there,’ ” Byron said. “Obviously I had to educate her.

“Tony Stewart won that day. My dad wanted to leave once the checkered flag flew because I had school the next day. I was like, ‘Dad, we have to stay for the (victory) burnout.’ ”

Although he also played football, basketball, lacrosse, a little bit of tennis and swimming, racing was Byron’s passion.

He had more than 100 wins in iRacing online competitions. In 2012, he started racing Legends cars, won 33 races and was champion of Legend Car Young Lions Division.

In 2014, he started driving late models for JR Motorsports. In 2015, he competed in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and won four times in clinching the points championship.

Kyle Busch Motorsports signed him to drive in the Truck Series last October.

Having the reigning Sprint Cup Series as your boss has its benefits.

“He’s done a few Truck races this season, which is really helpful to have him out there and learn from him first-hand,” Byron said. “There’s only so much you can do off the race track. Learning from him on the race track is really important also.

“When he’s not racing, he’s really helpful being on the radio, saying, ‘Hey, maybe try this on a restart’ or ‘See what you can do on pit road.’ Things like that.”

Byron’s sponsor is Liberty University, which is also where he plans to attend now that he has graduated. Some of his classes will be online in order to accommodate his racing schedule.

A victory so early in his career, in some ways, has raised expectations for Byron. But he hasn’t let success spoil him. He knows he still has a long way to go.

“It’s still early in the season, so there’s a lot to be accomplished and a lot to learn,” he said. “I haven’t been to a lot of these race tracks before, so I definitely need to figure those things out and keep trying to get top-five finishes.”