As William Byron celebrated his 15th birthday on Nov. 29, 2012, the online racer was just getting acclimated to the newest addition to the family garage — a Legend Car.
In the span of just five years, things have certainly changed for the native of Charlotte, N.C.
Later this month when Byron turns 20, he’ll do so amid preparations for his debut behind the wheel of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, one of most iconic cars in the history of NASCAR racing.
“I think definitely it’s the top level of racing and really everything that I’ve watched as a kid.” said Byron. “I’m starting to race against those guys so for me it’s definitely going to be intense and you’re going to have to match that intensity. But I feel like I’ve got great people around me and I’ve got a golden opportunity here at Hendrick Motorsports. It’s something as a kid I’ve grown up aspiring to do.
“For me it’s going to be a lot of fun, it’s going to be challenging at times, but I know that and I’m prepared for that,” Byron added about the next step in his meteoric rise through the NASCAR ranks. “So I just look forward to racing those guys and learning from them. I’ve had some conversations with Jimmie (Johnson) and some different guys here at Hendrick Motorsports, getting to know what the landscape is going to be like at that level and just trying to understand it. So I’ll spend as much time as I can around the team and just be ready to go next year.”
Byron has already impressed Hall of Fame team owner Rick Hendrick, who has an eye for both talent and character.
“I’ve known William I guess since he was 14 or 15 years old and watched him,” Hendrick said. “I think the thing that impressed me so much with William was … the fact that he won all those races in the Truck Series – rookie of the year, youngest guy to win in that series – and then you look at the XFINITY (Series) job he’s done this year – youngest guy (to win) at Indy, how he goes to the front so quick, how he picks up on things.
“You know, Ryan Pemberton (competition director at JR Motorsports) told me the first time he (Byron) sat down in the car in Phoenix, the first time in an XFINITY car – second lap he was at the top of the board. So he’s fast and all that. That speaks volumes to his talent in the car,” Hendrick continued. “But I think what impressed me probably more than anything about William, his last year as a senior at Country Day, one of the toughest private schools in Charlotte, he won the K&N Pro Series (title), he was an honor student, he was taking college courses and he became an Eagle Scout. When you accomplish all that … and you excel in every area, that takes tremendous commitment, drive and determination. We see he’s got the talent. His character is also unbelievable, very, very bright.”