DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- After Thursday's Duels at Daytona, William Byron has now had his first taste of NASCAR Cup Series racing inside the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
An on-track incident in the first Duel forced Byron to a backup car and a starting position at the back of the field for Sunday's Daytona 500. With that in mind, many might say the hard part is just beginning.
Byron begs to differ.
“I would say that the hard part was getting to this point, being in this car," the 20-year-old stated. "The hard part was getting that opportunity, and now Mr. H (Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick) and everyone, Axalta, Liberty, everyone that's pitching in to make this happen, that part is fun, and it's exciting, and it's a chance to go out there and make a name for yourself. I feel like I can do what I need to do in the race car, and that's going to take care of itself."
And while the side of Byron's Camaro ZL1 is emblazoned with the iconic No. 24, the driver said that doesn't put any added pressure on him or alter his expectations for his rookie season.
"I’m focusing on what I can do in the car," Byron said. "I want to work on my team and what we can do together. That speed is already there and the team has had the ability to win a lot of races, so I’m going to lean on that as much as I can.”
He'll especially count on his champion crew chief, veteran Darian Grubb.
“The bond that I have with my crew chief will be the strongest thing that I can lean on," Byron said. "And as we continue to progress through the 500 and through the season, we’re hopefully going to do just like we did at the Vegas test and use those first couple of races to feel the temperature and then click off on all cylinders.”
While Byron's goal is always to go out and win races, he's tackling his rookie season one step at a time.
“I want to go out there and show what we can do as a team, but I think that comes more from my competitive instinct and drive that I have to win," the driver explained. "It will come from within and from our team. I think if you can start to build on top-10s; a lot of people say top-10s lead to top-fives to wins. With our team, that’s true. If I can build on some top-10s and develop that into some better results, we can lead some races.”
And regardless of the expectations and pressure Byron places on himself, he's looking forward to continuing to build on the legacy of the No. 24 car that has already been established by the drivers that came before him.
“It’s a golden opportunity to go out and show what we can do," Byron said of driving for Hendrick Motorsports. "We have great race cars and great fan support. We’re already way ahead of what most rookies have to go through, and I feel like that’s an advantage for me and the fans will be eager to see what we can do on the racetrack in the 24 car."