CONCORD, N.C. -- In terms of most improved driver, William Byron takes the wheel.
The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE had a tremendous sophomore season, which saw him earn five pole positions, five top-five finishes (including two runner-up finishes) and 13 top-10 results.
That confidence gained has carried over into the 2020 season, which Bryon has been anticipating.
“Man, ever since I got back from my trip in January, I’ve kind of been focused on racing, whatever that is,” he said. “Whether it’s iRacing or being at the simulator or just watching old videos from last year, I can look back through all my notes from last year so I feel super ready to go. (I) probably feel more ready than I’ve ever felt in the Cup Series.”
Now that the season almost is here, Byron said he’s been looking forward to the DAYTONA 500, where he started off hot last year by winning pole, but ended up finishing 21st overall. Byron said having a little more experience under his belt with “The Great American Race” will help him relax him a bit.
“I’m most excited about going to Daytona, really. … it’s not something new,” he said. “Even last year was tough because it was a brand-new team - there was a lot of excitement and build up. I feel like this year we can literally can just go to Daytona and just unload the car and not have to worry about anything being new. And that’s exciting. That’s really comfortable and I feel like for the biggest race of the year, that’s a great way to go into it.”
The 22-year-old had an impressive start to the 2019 season by winning pole at the DAYTONA 500. However, it was toward the second half of the year that Byron had his best finishes, including both runner-up results.
“Especially in the last third of the season, I thought that we really got better. I feel comfortable with our race team – I feel like we’re poised to start strong and really go to the first race and feel comfortable with one another,” he said.
Even though Byron became one of the most improved drivers of 2019, he still has yet to win a race. While there could be pressure to get that first win as soon as possible, Byron said he isn’t trying to focus on the noise that comes with that pressure.
“There’s 38 weekends to win, so I think we have plenty of time," Byron said. "Every weekend is a chance. If it was a three-race stretch and I had to win one, that would be pressure … but the fact that we have all year to do it is fine, and we are going to set our goals to do well.”
What exactly are those goals? To build on what worked well for Byron and the No. 24 team, especially toward the end of the season. Byron added everything will fall in to place as long as they stay consistent.
He will have his first chance to test the waters Sunday, where he will join the other three Hendrick Motorsports teams at the Clash, an exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway.
“I’ve never been in (the Clash) so I’m excited to kind of see how it is,” Byron said. “It’s good to be in anything that’s kind of like an All-Star race. I think it will just help getting a feel for the drafting aspect of the weekend. It should be an advantage to be in that race.”