Editor’s note: This year, William Byron will check in from time to time on HendrickMotorsports.com to provide insight into the 2018 season from his own perspective. Below is his first entry.
Six races into the season, this year has already been a lot different when it comes to my lifestyle.
Obviously, racing in the Cup Series is a much bigger commitment from even racing in the Xfinity Series. Before, I was able to have extra time – in the Xfinity Series, you’re racing on Saturdays, you have a chance to really watch the guys on Sundays, learn from them and see what they’re doing. Now, you’re out there with the best guys of the weekend.
I feel like the biggest difference is in the Xfinity race, it was kind of understandable if you didn’t win against a Cup guy. Whereas now, if you’re running in the top 10 of a Cup race, all those guys that are up there are the people that you’d be racing with for the win in Xfinity.
That’s been something for me to get used to. It’s been something that’s also really exciting and really rewarding when you do run with those top-10 Cup Series drivers. It’s fun – even more fun than I thought it would be just because it’s a big challenge. I’ve been learning that.
I’ve also been learning how to be with a new race team, learning the ins and outs. I feel like in previous years, my talent and my ability in the car could overcome whatever was new with the race team. In the Cup Series, no matter how good or how talented you are in terms of your own ability to get the car around the track, you’ve got to have the communication, the notebook and the experience to look back on to say, ‘This is what the car needs to do and this is how the car needs to respond.’ That’s ultimately the difference-maker between running in the top 10 and running 20th. So, I’ve been learning that aspect and I think that the more that I get comfortable with my race team and the more that we really hone in on what we need during a weekend, we will just get better and better.
That just takes some time and some experience, but it seems like it’s started to click the last few weeks. Hopefully we just continue to carry that trajectory and continue moving forward in the direction that we’ve been going.
My best friends and people that have always been around me know how much I love a challenge, and I think the reason that I love the Cup Series so much, so far, is because it’s such a challenge.
A moment that certainly stands out so far this season is when I led my first laps in the Cup Series. It was a little surreal in the moment – but you’re also thinking about what’s going to happen in the rest of the race. My best friends and people that have always been around me know how much I love a challenge, and I think the reason that I love the Cup Series so much, so far, is because it’s such a challenge. When you have those moments when you lead laps, it’s just gratification for the work that you’re putting in. I think that’s true when you finish in the top 10 or top 15 – we haven’t had a top-10 yet, but we finished 12th and led some laps. So, when you have that chance to run like that, it just really rewards you and you just know how much effort it took to get to that point.
I just always love a challenge. I would say leading laps has been good, but also just the challenge of racing the other guys has been probably more rewarding than leading a few laps.
What’s exciting to me is it was a two-tire call by Darian and the team that put us in position to lead those laps. We’ve got a lot of spirit on our race team and that’s always a quality that you want to have. Racing is all about innovation, whether that’s building a better race car, whether that’s pit strategy or what you do in the race car as far as driving style. That stuff always has to evolve and change as each race goes on. It changes every lap. I do something different every lap just to compensate for what the car needs to do to run the same speed or faster.
I think the two-tire calls show that our team is innovative and they also have confidence in what I’m doing, that I can make that strategy work. Sometimes it’s going to work better than others. As we saw at Fontana, it cost us a little bit, but ultimately it was a call that we made and I liked the aggression. I think that eventually those things are going to pay off, maybe in a win.
Now, I’m definitely looking forward to the off weekend. I say that because I think that even though you might not be worn out, there’s so much information that I’ve learned in the last five or six weeks that I really haven’t had a chance to process completely. I try to do the best job I can of just getting rest and just trying to make sure that I’m mentally ready. So, when I get a chance to get away from it for a week and then come back, hopefully we’re even better than before and we pick up where we left off but we also bring a fresh perspective. I think the off week will be a really good chance for me to diagnose and kind of debrief with my own mind and really take everything in that I’ve learned.
Then, we’ll keep pushing forward in Texas.