HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- In an exciting 200-lap NASCAR XFINITY Series finale event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, William Byron clinched his first career NASCAR series championship.
"I don’t think I breathed the last 20 laps," Byron said on the championship stage. "That was incredible.
The title wraps up Byron's third full-time NASCAR season and his first in the XFINITY Series. In 2016, he turned in the most successful debut season in Camping World Truck Series history with a NASCAR national series rookie record seven victories.
The 19-year-old posted an impressive resume throughout his rookie XFINITY Series season, including four wins, 12 top-five finishes, 22 top-10s and two pole positions.
"I went to Martinsville when I was seven years old and watched the No. 48 car win the race and dreamed about running for Mr. Hendrick," Byron said. "Got the opportunity with Dale Jr. when I was 16 years old and took off from there, so I can't believe all the people around me that helped make this happen. Thankful for this team, that's what made this happen."
In the end, it all came down to one race against three other components all vying for that coveted championship trophy -- two of them Byron's own teammates.
Byron and teammate Elliott Sadler battled for a significant amount of the race, swapping positions several times before Byron solidified his hold on the championship lead.
"Tough, he was really good on the long run," Byron said of his teammate Sadler. "We weren't as good on the long run, but we had massive short run speed. I can't believe it. This is awesome. I can't believe it got to that point."
Among those joining Byron for his championship celebration were Rick Hendrick, JR Motorsports owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and even future teammate Chase Elliott dropped by to shake his hand.
"I think it's unbelievable how good he is and how much he's developed," Hendrick said of the 19-year-old driver. "Boy what he showed tonight, battling for that win. Just the way he's performed and how cool he is, how mature he is. He's going to have a heck of a future. I'm so excited to have him. He showed an awful lot of talent tonight. We're just real proud of him."
The title marks the Hendrick Motorsports engine department's third NASCAR XFINITY Series championship, giving the department a total of 20 NASCAR national series titles.
Signing with Hendrick Motorsports earlier this year, Byron will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the 2018 Daytona 500.