Hendrick Motorsports have confirmed that William Byron will step up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next year, driving the #5 Chevrolet. It was announced earlier this week that the team would not be resigning current #5 driver Kasey Kahne; with many immediately predicting that Byron would make the step up.
Byron will complete the four-car line-up at HMS, joining Jimmie Johnson in the #48, Chase Elliott in the #24 and Alex Bowman in the #88; with the latter also making his full-time Cup series debut next year as a replacement for the retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Byron in a statement from Hendrick Motorsports. “Mr Hendrick has built such a great team. The people at Hendrick Motorsports have dedicated their lives to giving their drivers the best chance to win every weekend. I have a responsibility to them to work hard and put everything I have into this opportunity. They need to know I’m always giving 100 percent because that’s what they do.
“When I told my parents that I wanted to drive race cars, they supported me and believed I could do it. Without them, there’s no way this would be possible. Axalta and Liberty University are awesome partners, and I’m so thankful for their faith in me. I’m going to do all I can to make my family, my sponsors and my teammates proud and represent them all in the right way.”
Byron’s rise up the ladder to the NASCAR Cup Series has been nothing short of meteoric. William only began racing cars five years ago, making his NASCAR debut in the Whelen All-American Series late model division in 2014 before moving up to and winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East the following year.
Kyle Busch Motorsports picked up Byron for 2016 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, with the then 18-year-old becoming the most successful rookie in series history after earning seven victories en-route to securing fifth place in the championship and rookie of the year honours.
Hendrick Motorsports would sign Byron to a multi-year contract that year, with the teenager then graduating to the NASCAR XFINITY Series for this year with JR Motorsports; the team co-owned by Hendrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. As it stands Byron is second in the points and has already secured a spot in the championship playoffs after having taken three wins in his rookie season.
“At every step, William has proven how quickly he can adapt,” said Rick Hendrick, team owner. “Some drivers have raw talent and some have a strong work ethic. William has both. It’s impressive to see a young guy who never gets rattled and instinctively knows how to communicate with his team. That level of commitment, poise and pure ability is rare at any age. I think he’s just scratching the surface.”
Additionally, it was announced that Byron’s #5 Chevrolet would be sponsored by Liberty University and Axalta Coating Systems, who currently back the teenager in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. It is believed that Byron’s great relationship with sponsors such as Liberty University and Axalta, coupled with his superb results in lower categories, is what helped Byron to jump up to the NASCAR Cup Series so soon.
“To have this opportunity with a new partner (to Hendrick Motorsports) in Liberty University and to grow what’s been an incredible long-term relationship with Axalta, it’s very special,” Hendrick said. “These are two sponsors who have already built effective programs around our sport and now see even more possibilities. It’s a big compliment to William, who has been a terrific ambassador for them both, and we look forward to a bright future together.”
Byron will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race debut in the 2018 Daytona 500. He will likely conduct Cup car testing later this year, however. In the meantime, his next action out on track will be this weekend’s XFINITY Series Mid-Ohio Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.