It’s official: teenager William Byron will move up to the Cup Series with Hendrick Motorsports in 2018, completing his rise from NASCAR’s Truck Series in just two seasons.
Byron will drive the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as Kasey Kahne’s replacement from 2018 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The 19-year-old will make the jump from XFINITY to the MENCS with the sponsorship of Axalta Coating Systems and Liberty University, his current backers in that division. The majority of his 2018 races will be covered by those two sponsors with additional details of their support to be revealed later.
Byron took a record seven victories in his debut NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season in 2016, with the North Carolinian having taken three XFINITY Series wins this year – at Iowa, Daytona and Indianapolis – to put himself second in the standings after 20 of 33 races for Hendrick affiliate JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series. Byron has also taken one pole, seven top fives and 14 top 10s in his rookie XFINITY Series season.
Hendrick Motorsports signed Byron, who will turn 20 in November, in August 2016. Next season, he will drive alongside Chase Elliott, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s replacement Alex Bowman. Byron took the No. 5 seat 48 hours after Hendrick announced Kahne’s official release from the car.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Byron in a statement from Hendrick Motorsports on Wednesday. “Mr. [Rick] 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 began his career in 2013, competing in the U.S. Legend Car Young Lions division. He turned professional in 2014 in Legends Cars and won the Charlotte Winter Heat Series U.S. Legend Car Pro championship. Later in 2014, he was signed to Earnhardt’s late model program at JR Motorsports.
“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.”
Kahne, who qualified for the NASCAR playoffs with a win in the Brickyard 400 will still finish out the season in the No. 5 Chevrolet.
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