Byron Prepares for Cup Series Debut
William Byron couldn't help but smile when asked about his rapidly approaching rookie season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
The highly touted rookie from Charlotte, North Carolina, has plenty of reason to be excited: He's driving for a powerhouse team - Hendrick Motorsports - with the iconic No. 24 on the side of his car.
"This is really a dream come true to be part of the Cup Series and to be with a great race team that has a chance to win," Byron said during Tuesday's portion of the 36th annual NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway at the Charlotte Convention Center. "I think, for us, we're just all about going to try to win races and we have all the resources and tools to do that. We're trying to focus those in all the right areas."
Byron doesn't lack focus. The 20-year-old enters NASCAR's highest level having already claimed a championship in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. He steps into his new role as the pilot of a car whose number was made famous by four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon.
Additionally, this year marks a changing of the guard at Hendrick Motorsports. Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson - who earned three of the team's four victories last year - is the new elder statesman. Alex Bowman steps in for the retired Dale Earnhardt Jr., while Chase Elliott enters his third season as Byron approaches his debut. Byron believes the youth movement won't slow down the progress he expects Hendrick to display early in the season.
"There are a lot of new things that I have to think about and approach differently, but I feel like this year's going to be a really good year for us," Byron said. "We have a great team with Darian Grubb as our crew chief. I feel like everybody at Hendrick is ready to get to the race track. There's a lot of excitement and a lot of new things that we're approaching.
"There's a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. We're trying to make ourselves better on the physical side but also with the race cars. There are a lot of new approaches that are going on and I think that's all exciting stuff for us."