At first, William Byron wasn’t sure if he would even share the news with his race team, let alone the rest of the world.
But on Tuesday (May 4), the Hendrick Motorsports driver informed the public about what his family has been dealing with for the last month.
His mother, Dana, has been diagnosed with MALT lymphoma, a “rare but treatable,” according to Byron’s tweet, brain tumor.
The diagnosis came after she had experienced what Byron called a “stroke-like event” during the Martinsville Speedway race weekend in early April.
— William Byron (@WilliamByron) May 4, 2021
“When this whole process started a couple weeks ago, it was definitely a perspective changer,” Byron told Frontstretch the morning after he posted the tweet. “I think gradually, as the weeks have gone by, I’ve just become more comfortable with people understanding the situation. My race team knew about it going into this weekend, and I felt like it’s just powerful for people to show support and love and care for her. And I felt like she deserved that.
“She wanted that, you know, it’s really her decision. It’s just one of those things that we’re comfortable with. I think that she’s ready to start the process. And I’m definitely gonna be there to support her every step of the way.”
Byron said he believes his mother will begin treatments next Tuesday, May 11.
The decision to announce the diagnosis this week “made sense” with what comes this Sunday, May 9: Mother’s Day.
“I was going to be asked about my mom at some point this weekend, it would have been hard for me to withhold the fact what she’s gone through,” Byron said. “Would have been hard to talk about everything like it’s normal. So I think that was part of it. But I feel like the timing honestly just didn’t work out last week (before Kansas). … She didn’t want that for me to have to answer a bunch of questions about it right before the race. … And honestly, it’s her decision. And so this made sense to kind of get out there early in the week and be able to get going.”
Byron, the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, said he and his mother have developed a strong “connection and bond” through his racing career.
It was her, not his father, who attended the first race he won in a real racecar.
“He was on vacation or something,” Byron said. “And so my mom was taking me to the race track for my first few wins in Legend cars. … She’s my biggest supporter, and I feel like she watches everything, so it’s cool to kind of have her watch all that.”
A two-time winner in the NASCAR Cup Series, Byron said that despite NASCAR’s COVID-19 protocols, Dana was able to attend his win in February at Homestead-Miami Speedway after missing his first win last summer at Daytona International Speedway. She watched from a suite as Byron led 102 laps on the way to victory lane.
Of course, Byron observed that it “would be huge” to win Sunday at Darlington Raceway in his first race since announcing the diagnosis.
“I just think it would be because I feel like she just loves the fact that I’m pursuing what I love and I think that that’s most important to her and there’s been times over the last few weeks where I feel like racing’s not as important,” Byron said. “At the same time, she’s encouraged me to continue to pursue what’s important to me. So it’s been a good balance. … I think that she’s able to watch and our whole family is able to watch and Darlington’s close to home, too, so it wouldn’t be a long drive to get home to see her, so I definitely would be excited if we can do that.”
Byron has plenty of reasons to feel confident in his chances of winning at Darlington.
He heads into the Goodyear 400 on a hot streak of nine consecutive top-10 finishes, including his Homestead win. It will mark his sixth Cup start on the 1.36-mile track.
In last year’s Southern 500, he earned his first top-five finish there, placing fifth after previously not placing better than 12th.
What clicked for the No. 24 team after five visits to the track “Too Tough To Tame”?
“Having the right feel in the car, not being too tight or too loose, just kind of having the right sensations in the car,” Byron said. “It’s really finicky race track. You’ve got to have a good balance there. And I feel like I’ve been on both sides of things there where it was way too loose or way too tight. But finally got something that I felt like was pretty good and was able to work with that.”
With this being NASCAR’s Throwback Weekend, Byron will drive a Valvoline paint scheme that Neil Bonnett drove in the 1980s.
Byron believes the 400-mile race will appropriately be “more old school” thanks to the Cup Series using its low-downforce package.
“So it’s gonna be hard to drive,” Byron said. “There’s gonna be a lot of guessing going on with the setups. I feel like as soon as we kind of find something that works, hopefully early in the race, we can work with that and and keep it going.”
You can watch Daniel McFadin’s full interview with Byron in the video below.
Follow @DanielMcFadin and check out and subscribe his show “Dropping The Hammer with Daniel McFadin” on YouTube and in podcast form.
About the author
Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.
You can email him at email@example.com.
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