CONCORD, N.C. -- Will the third season be the charm for William Byron?
The 22-year-old driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE saw his stock rise last season after he finished the year with five pole awards, five top-five finishes (which included two runner-up spots) and 13 top-10s.
It’s vast improvement from his rookie year, which saw him earn just four top-10 finishes. Because of his growth, Byron said he’s feeling different about the 2020 season - in a good way.
“It's more normal for me because I feel like there's just less new things. I feel like that's going to really help me grow because I don't have to worry about what all of the different things I have to get used to are,” Byron said ahead of the DAYTONA 500.
“Working with (crew chief) Chad (Knaus), he's actually the first crew chief I've worked with since Legend cars, to work with for a second time. I'm just really excited about that, having some consistency there. It's going to be fun. If we can start the year off fast-paced, I think it's going to make things fall in line a lot easier.”
Not only did Byron improve in every racing category from 2018 to 2019, he made the Cup Series playoffs last season for the first time, as well. The one big thing missing from Byron’s list of accolades is that first Cup Series win.
Byron is in good company – five other successful drivers captured their first Cup Series win in their third season, including teammate Chase Elliott, Hall of Famers Bobby Labonte and Alan Kulwicki, Rusty Wallace and Kyle Larson.
Even Knaus has noticed the huge transformation with Byron. Knaus said the experience he’s acquired, especially over the last year, has made Byron into a more confident driver.
“He is very intelligent,” Knaus said. “I mean, there’s no doubt. He can diagnose, look at data, draw conclusions, watches (and) studies. Those are things that are going to take him to the top.
“I’ve seen a huge shift in him from a personality standpoint, which I think is good. He rolled into my office in October (2018) when Jimmie (Johnson) and I decided to split up. … William came in, he was kind of mousy, pretty quiet, a little intimidated and all that.
“And now he rolls in, he’s got his hair looking good, his shoulders are back. He’s wearing cool clothes. He’s got it. He’s got that thing that we want in all of our race car drivers.”
Byron will get his first chance to cruise into Victory Lane this Sunday, when the 2020 season officially kicks off with the DAYTONA 500 at 2:30 p.m. ET.