Over the past year or so, NASCAR Cup Series drivers from the Hendrick Motorsports stable have been branching out into to other forms of motorsports. Of course, Kyle Larson has led the way as the reigning champion is frequently seen ripping around dirt tracks all across the country in Midgets, Sprint Cars and Late Models. Also, 2020 champ Chase Elliott has followed suit with expanded participation in Midget racing and pavement Late Model competition.
Over the past two weeks, Alex Bowman has made debut starts with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and the FloRacing All Star Circuit of Champions.
Now, William Byron is joining the fray and it appears as if he plans to return to his roots in a significant way in 2022.
Byron worked his way up through the ranks of pavement Late Model racing on his way to NASCAR. And now, the driver of the No. 24 HMS Chevrolet is looking to revisit those racing roots by entering several short track events during the coming season. That quest began this week at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
He has made two starts in the famed Snowball Derby with one of those being from the pole. Byron has also recorded a win with the CARS Tour in a Super Late Model.
Byron has joined forces with powerful Donnie Wilson Motorsports to propel his efforts and the 24-year-old winner of two Cup Series races showed speed right away as one of the fastest cars in practice on Sunday. However, an issue in qualifying buried him deep on the feature starting grid for that night’s feature race. He started 19th and ultimately worked his way up to a top-10 finish in the 35-lapper.
Monday night proved to be a different story in the Clyde Hart Memorial Super Late Model 100. Byron turned in the third fastest qualifying lap behind frequent front runners Derek Griffith and Jesse Love but a seven-car invert following time-trials placed the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion fifth on the starting grid.
The Charlotte native’s march forward began almost immediately as he jumped to the fourth position quickly. In a race that ran caution free for almost 70 laps, Byron tracked down second-place runner Jake Finch and completed the pass for that spot at the halfway mark. He then trailed only Gabe Sommers but the leader had an advantage of two seconds over his closest pursuer. But a caution flag would even things up.
After trailing Sommers for several laps, another caution provided a new opportunity. Starting on the outside row of a double-file restart, Byron ran side-by-side for multiple laps until he was able to clear and assume the lead on lap 75. Over the remaining quarter of the race, the NASCAR star was able to fight back several challenges, particularly on a restart with less than 10 laps to go, to ultimately drive under the checkered flag for the victory.
In his post-race interview with FloRacing.com, it was obvious that Byron had enjoyed his return to Super Late Model racing on the pavement.
“It’s just so much fun,” he declared in his post-race interview with FloRacing.com. “The racing is so hard. The 15(Sommers), he raced me great all day. I felt like he was a little quicker and doing a better job throughout that middle portion of the race and I just didn’t have enough turn and I kept trying to search. Ultimately, I got a good restart and we raced side-by-side for what felt like forever. On that last one(restart), I kind of spun the tires. He gave me a little shot into one but otherwise, it was really fun.”
But it was in his final statement that Byron revealed his future plans.
“For sure,” he replied when asked if he hopes to do more grassroots racing. “We’re going to try to do at least seven more, hopefully more. As fun as this was, I think I’ll keep doing it.”
Pole position qualifying for the Daytona 500 will take place this Wednesday with the Daytona Duels rolling off on Thursday night. The Daytona 500 will play out on Sunday, February 20 on Fox. That race has been listed as a complete sellout.
Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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