HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- It was a whirlwind weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway and now, at the start of a new week, the dust is beginning to settle.
Prior to Dale Earnhardt Jr. climbing into his No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS for the final time Sunday, he joined his JR Motorsports family on pit road Saturday night as a NASCAR XFINITY Series champion was crowned from his team.
That champion was William Byron.
And JR Motorsports owner Earnhardt was one of the first people to arrive at the championship stage to celebrate with the 19-year-old driver.
"Some people just have it in them," Earnhardt said of Byron. "He shouldn't be able to do what he did tonight at his age with the limited experience he has, but he has it. He just has whatever it is about his mental toughness and his ability to remain calm in a very high‑pressure situation that is going to serve him well in this job, for sure."
It marked the first NASCAR national series title for the rookie XFINITY Series driver, who has just three full-time years as a driver under his belt.
"It's awesome," Byron said. "This is an incredible feeling and I'm just thankful for all the people that have made it happen. It's a total team effort, and it's really cool."
"You know, he's just getting started," Earnhardt continued. "It's going to be impressive to watch him as he really starts to get more and more confidence in himself and people around him."
Although Byron's career may just be kicking off, he's making a big move for the 2018 season. Earlier this year, it was announced that he would pilot the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Hendrick Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series beginning in 2018.
"We have an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports that gives us an opportunity to have a performance gain from that alliance, and we try to be an asset to them," Earnhardt explained of the partnership between the two teams. "We've kind of turned ourselves into a little farm team, not only for drivers like William but for crew chiefs, for over-the-wall guys. We try to make that system very beneficial toward Hendrick Motorsports to where they want that alliance, and it works for them and works for us. So it's been great to shape it into that over the last probably four or five years."
And Earnhardt isn't the only one looking forward to seeing Byron progress in NASCAR competition. Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick has also placed a lot of confidence in the young driver.
"He's going to have a heck of a future," Hendrick said. "I'm so excited to have him. I can't wait for next year. It's going to be great."