CONCORD, N.C. – When the NASCAR XFINITY Series heads to Darlington Raceway on Labor Day weekend, William Byron will pilot a paint scheme very special to the Hendrick family.
Byron, who Hendrick Motorsports signed in 2016 and is currently racing full-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with affiliate JR Motorsports, will drive a Liberty University Chevrolet that pays homage to a paint scheme Ricky Hendrick – the late son of Rick and Linda Hendrick – raced in 2001.
“You look at that paint scheme and it brings you back to ’01,” said Rick Hendrick, who helped unveil the car Wednesday afternoon at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “It’s emotional, but you’re so proud to see all of the teammates who were there with him show up to be here today.”
Many of Ricky Hendrick’s former teammates – including crew chief Lance McGrew – were in attendance at the event along with the Hendrick family.
Byron said he had already learned of Ricky Hendrick’s legacy, and seeing so many of the people he had touched in attendance really drove the point home.
“Just to see all the support that he had from old team guys, his crew chief and everybody there is really cool,” the young driver said. “It’s just really cool and special to run that scheme for Ricky and Mr. Hendrick and Mrs. Hendrick."
Ricky Hendrick drove the original blue-and-white paint scheme to Victory Lane at Kansas Speedway in 2001 to cement his very first win, which Linda Hendrick called “the highlight of our racing career.”
And Kansas just so happens to be where Byron got his first win in the NASCAR Truck Series as well.
“They have a lot of similarities,” Linda Hendrick said of Byron and her late son. “William graduated from the same school our son graduated from. He looks so much like him when he has his racing cap on in Victory Lane, and his mannerism and character reminds me so much of our son. So, it’s really special.”
Having Liberty University – Bryon's college – on the hood only added to the moment.
Jerry Falwell, the president of Liberty University, said the school was honored to be a part of the meaningful paint scheme. And in another way to honor Ricky Hendrick’s legacy, Falwell presented the Hendrick family with a $25,000 check to the Ricky Hendrick Scholarship Fund.
Liberty University started a program in the school of business for automotive dealership management training, one of only a handful in the entire country, and the money will go toward students in need that have enrolled in the program.
“Ricky, from what we know about him and have learned about him, he epitomizes the type of young person that Liberty is trying to build,” Falwell said. “We just thought it would be a way to honor him and at the same time help train young people how to run an automobile dealership.
“We’re looking forward to helping a lot of young people that way.”
“It’s just really cool and special to run that scheme for Ricky and Mr. Hendrick and Mrs. Hendrick."William Byron
When Dale Earnhardt Jr. first asked Rick Hendrick if he would mind if JR Motorsports modeled Byron’s Darlington ride after Ricky Hendrick’s paint scheme, the Hendrick Motorsports owner said he and his family would be “honored.”
And after seeing it come to fruition to create what he called “a gorgeous car,” the owner can’t wait to see it back on the racetrack.
“This is going to be so rewarding for us,” he said. “So, I’m looking forward to William winning at Darlington.”
“No pressure,” Byron and Hendrick laughed in unison.
Pressure or not, Byron knows what it would mean to drive the special paint scheme to Victory Lane.
“It would be probably the most special win – we’ve had a couple really special wins this year with the Brickyard and Daytona,” he said, “but that one would top it all.”