With his Homestead victory lane celebration done and the awards banquet over with, another party is about to begin for William Byron.
His welcome back to JR Motorsports.
The 2016 Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year will return to JRM to run full-time in the Xfinity Series. When Byron began his racing career in a full-sized stock car in 2014, he did so running Late Models for JR Motorsports, becoming familiar with team owners Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kelley Earnhardt Miller, and team general manager L.W. Miller.
“I feel like it’s a coming home party a little bit when I see L.W. and I see Kelley and Dale,” Byron said this week at the Truck Series awards banquet. “It just kind of feels cool because I can talk about how far I’ve grown since then and they know that, too. I just remember their ultimate goal for me when I started racing Late Models was so I could race an Xfinity car there. In a weird way, I got back to that, and it’s going to be really cool to return next year.”
JR Motorsports had both of its drivers, Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier, compete in the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Sadler also took home the Most Popular Driver Award. Wade Jackson, a fabricator with the organization, was presented the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award.
It was “neat,” Byron said, to see the great people he’s come to know be acknowledged for their accomplishments at the banquet. Byron still does not know what his number will be or who will serve as his crew chief. With the announcement of his 2017 plans being made back in August, he admits he didn’t get hung up on the details or get ahead of himself by thinking of what was ahead.
Staying focused on the task at hand with his Kyle Busch Motorsports team, led by crew chief Ryan “Rudy” Fugle, Byron set a rookie record for wins (seven) and came within one race of making it to Homestead with a shot at the championship. Being eliminated didn’t slow him down, though, as Byron swept both practice sessions, won the pole, and then dominated the Ford EcoBoost 200.
“No, it wasn’t (hard staying focused),” Byron said. “Rudy was such a good leader for our team that people are kind of caught off guard when I say that I haven’t even thought about next year when the season was going on. We were so focused on this year and our goals, and luckily we ended the year off with a win, which I think was the best feeling in the world.”
Does Byron expect to repeat his rookie success in the Xfinity Series? He laughed that away with a no. Certainly not when his former owner, Kyle Busch, and other Sprint Cup drivers will have a heavy presence in the series. A new challenge Byron is ready to take on.
“Kyle was telling me, he’s like, you’ll at least not win 10 (races) because he’ll be in 10 of them,” Byron joked. “It’ll be really cool to race people like Kyle Busch, my mentor really, and Dale Jr.’s going to be in some races. That’ll be awesome to race some of the Cup guys. I can’t wait. It’s going to be a great step up, and I’m looking forward to it.”