CONCORD, N.C. – Despite coming off a season in which he won a NASCAR Cup Series-leading six races and reached the Championship 4, William Byron came to the DAYTONA 500 with a little bit of an edge and something to prove. 

On Monday night, Byron left Daytona International Speedway as the latest winner of "The Great American Race," guiding the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to its first DAYTONA 500 win in 19 years. The win marked the first time that a Charlotte, North Carolina, native won the DAYTONA 500. The victory was also Hendrick Motorsports’ ninth in the event, which is tied for the most by all teams and it came 40 years to the day of the organization’s first start. 

SHOP: William Byron DAYTONA 500 gear | PHOTOS: Scenes from victory lane

While the accomplishment is enormous, Byron is hungry to keep that edge as motivation for the upcoming season and beyond.

"I don’t know if I’ll ever get that chip off my shoulder," Byron said when asked about his mindset. "It’s always been there. I’m very quiet about it. There are always reasons to find. We didn’t win the championship. We don’t get talked about the most and other people get more publicity. Things like that. Whatever I find, I use it as motivation. It’s just the way I’ve always been internally. I don’t express that a lot, but it definitely burns inside.

"That’s what fuels your offseasons a lot of times is just what can I find. What little edge can I find to be the best. There’s still tons to learn. I can be a lot more complete in the car. I feel like your race craft and things are always evolving. Just trying to be a better version inside the car with my team."

Team vice chairman Jeff Gordon believes this win elevates Byron to another level in the sport. 

"He was already a superstar," Gordon said of Byron. "He just went to another level of being a superstar."

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The 2023 season served noticed that Byron was a force to be reckoned with season-best marks in wins (six), top-10 finishes (21), stage wins (nine) and average finish (11.0), while tying teammate Kyle Larson for the most top-fives (15). His third-place finish in the standings was a career-high in his sixth full-time season. Byron's first Cup Series start came at the age of 20 in the 2018 DAYTONA 500.

"I spent half my racing career in the Cup Series, which is crazy, but it’s just the way that my career trajectory kind of went," Byron said. "I think Mr. H always knew that putting me in the Cup Series would allow me to learn the things I needed to learn, and we’ve been able to see kind of the evolution of that with my team over the last year and a half."

Since the start of the 2022 season, Byron has the most wins in the series (nine). He is coming off a career-best year and is showing no signs of slowing down. Team owner Rick Hendrick likes the fire the 26-year-old driver is showing. 

"I like the way he’s approaching this year," Hendrick said. "He’s done a lot in the short time he’s been in the sport. Winning the DAYTONA 500 now, that’s something that he’ll always carry with him.

"It’s exciting to see and think about the future with him and Rudy together because he’s just done an awesome job everywhere."

Hendrick credits crew chief Rudy Fugle for helping his driver grow. Byron and Fugle are in their fourth together at the Cup level, but their history goes back to a seven-win season in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series. It’s been a combination that has gelled at a high level. 

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"When you look at his work ethic and this guy sitting beside me (Fugle), they’re a lethal combination," Hendrick said. "The confidence level between both of them, it’s amazing. William puts in the work. That’s all he thinks about. He’s in the simulator. He’s watching tapes. He has worked so hard. People don’t realize how much time he puts in.

"Bringing Rudy on gave him that confidence because they were so successful in the Truck Series, and man, they just picked up and clicked. When you think about his age, how smart he is and how he races like a guy that’s been doing it for a long time, he doesn’t make many mistakes. He just eats, drinks and sleeps winning.

"… I’ve never seen anyone any more dedicated putting in the work than he does."

Fugle has his eye on going a step further than the team did in 2023, finishing third in the standings. He wants to capture some crown jewel hardware in the process. 

"We proved year after year that we’re winners now, but now it’s time to be champions,” Fugle said. Those big races - we’re setting our eyes on those and winning the championship at the end of the year."