CONCORD, N.C. – It’s no longer the NASCAR offseason. With the first week of February in the rear-view mirror, Hendrick Motorsports is kicking into full gear for the 2019 season, and so is No. 24 driver William Byron.
After jumping from the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series to the NASCAR Xfinity Series and then the NASCAR Cup Series, the 2018 Cup Series Rookie of the Year is excited to settle in to a single series.
“It feels good just to have a year under my belt now,” Byron said. “Kind of be able to get rid of the rookie stripes. I feel like it takes a load off of me. And I just kind of know what I’m going into now, so I’ll have a better idea of what the environment is.”
Byron enters 2019 with a new crew chief at the helm – seven-time champion Chad Knaus – as well as numerous new faces on the No. 24 team. The driver noted that the new unit has been “jelling pretty well,” and the offseason of change has him looking forward to what he expects will be a season that brings “a lot of fun.”
“This year obviously working with Chad, it’s going to be exciting,” he said. “He’s open to new things and I feel like that’s important as a crew chief and team member. His work ethic is really high. I would say that’s really the biggest thing I’ve taken away from him. I feel like I will try to apply that as best I can to what I’m doing, too.”
When the pairing was announced late last year, Byron took the news as great opportunity to learn from such an experienced crew chief.
“I feel like we’ve started the process back in December just doing things together as a team,” the driver said. “It’s crazy. I mean, now it’s kind of set in. When it first happened, it was a great opportunity, obviously, so it’s going to be something fun to look forward to.”
In addition to getting to know his new teammates in the offseason, Byron took some time to relax before the whirlwind of preparation for 2019 began.
“I was able to go up to Indianapolis for a little bit and kind of see what they do up there with some of the racing stuff, which was cool,” he said. “I went snowboarding out west in Park City, Utah. So, that was a good time. Then other than that I’ve just been home. I also went to Costa Rica for a couple days and that was cool.”
The time away, he said, helped him recharge and refocus on continuing to improve in his sophomore Cup Series season. With cars on the track this weekend, Byron said he’s doing everything in his power to make sure the 2019 season is a memorable one for the No. 24 team.
“There’s a lot of things that go into making this next year the best it can be,” he said. “That comes down to physical training, mental stuff and getting in a car and doing something racing-related. So, I feel like I touch all those bases every week, and I try to keep doing that.”
He’ll put that preparation the test on Sunday when he takes on Daytona 500 qualifying, which will be broadcast on FOX at 12:10 p.m. ET.