CONCORD, N.C. – William Byron had his best season to date in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2023, so what can the 26-year-old driver do for an encore in 2024?
2024 SEASON PREVIEWS: Alex Bowman | Chase Elliott | Kyle Larson
The past season saw Byron reach the Championship 4 for the first time in his Cup career. In addition to a career-best third-place finish in the final standings, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native posted his best marks in a season in wins (six), top-five finishes (15), top-10s (21), laps led (1,016), average finish (11.0) and stage wins (nine). He led all Cup Series drivers in 2023 in wins, top-10 finishes, average finish and stage wins, while tying for the lead in top-fives with teammate Kyle Larson.
"When you look at the results, we finally put together what we are capable of and just the consistency of being there every week. That’s something to be said for that," Byron said. "The next step for us is just pushing all those little boundaries – me as a driver, us as a team and being a little bit more aggressive and little bit more on the edge. That’s honestly what I’m focused on."
The final two races of the season at Martinsville Speedway and Phoenix Raceway have served as a focus for where Byron would like to be better – short tracks. He had to grind out the race at Martinsville to advance to the Championship 4 and despite holding the championship lead for 205 of the 312 laps at Phoenix, he finished third among the title contenders.
"I think those last two races of the year are good motivation for us in what we need to work on to improve," Byron said. "We can’t really lose sight of the strengths that we had as a team. We were really good on mile-and-a-half tracks. We were really good on road courses towards the end of the year but we have to make the short tracks better. That’s me included just being better on short tracks and knowing what I need in the car."
Among those strengths is the leadership of crew chief Rudy Fugle, who is back for a fourth season atop the No. 24 pit box with Byron. The squad also returns a stellar pit crew that had the fastest four-tire pit stop average in 2023 at 10.934 seconds.
"We have a great group on the 24," Fugle said. "We have a mix of fairly young guys, some veterans and some guys that have been around Hendrick (Motorsports) for a long time. We just have a great camaraderie with the team. It’s hard to get that mesh and we have that on the 24 because the people are really good."
ON THE ROAD: Inside the No. 24 pit crew’s preparation
Since the start of the 2021 season, Byron’s nine wins are the second-most in the series (behind only Larson) and he and Fugle rank fourth in wins among active driver and crew chief pairings. The driver of the No. 24 Chevy has his eyes on adding to that total and improving on how much he is out front.
"We are trying to win more races than we did last year, which is a tall task and it is going to be tough," Byron said. "A lot of the races we won (in 2023) weren’t dominant but we were there at the right times and we capitalized. I feel like we can have some more dominant races this year. Try to lead some more laps and just be upfront even more as that fastest team and driver."
RELATED: All of William Byron’s wins
PIT CREW LINEUP
Front-tire changer: Jeff Cordero
Rear-tire changer: Orane Ossowski
Tire carrier: Ryan Patton
Jackman: Spencer Bishop
Fueler: Landon Walker
STAT TO KNOW: 10, which is Byron’s total number of Cup Series wins at Hendrick Motorsports. He ranks sixth on the team list and is just two victories behind Terry Labonte for fifth.
40TH ANNIVERSARY MOMENT: May 14, 2023, at Darlington Raceway
Byron looks back on earning the 100th win for the No. 24 car in the Cup Series
"It was pretty awesome. Jeff (Gordon) was the only driver that had won in the 24 car before I got into that and that was certainly a lot of pressure to get back to victory lane. You want to be a consistent force in the Cup Series and not just win a race here or there. I think my first couple of wins in the Cup Series were a big relief to try and get to victory lane. Having won 10 races now in the 24, that was a big deal for us to add to the legacy of the number. I feel like we have done that over the last couple of years. It has been nice to be back up front with that number and feel like we are building something sustainable. Jeff had such a legacy in the car. It was our job to continue that and try to make it our own too."