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William Byron’s rookie mindset: Race like you’re on borrowed time

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — In 2018, William Byron will be racing like his career is about to end.

“You just never know how long you’re going to race,” Byron told NBC Sports. “I’m going to move up to the Cup Series like it’s my last year.”

That’s the mindset the newly 20-year-old driver will have in his rookie season in the Cup Series.

“I think you gain that (mindset through) advice,” Byron said Thursday during an event for NASCAR’s national touring series champions. “Max Papis had helped me a lot in understanding the role and the person you need to be. Just how special of an opportunity this is.”

If that’s the mentality Byron’s had the last two years in NASCAR, it’s worked.

Byron is weeks removed from winning the Xfinity Series title and five years removed from the start of his career on the iRacing simulator.

In 73 days, he’ll start the biggest chapter of his career driving the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

The fact he’s a NASCAR champion has “not really” set in for Byron. It might finally do so when he gives his champion’s speech Saturday night at the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series Awards banquet in Charlotte.

With all that going on, Byron doesn’t feel like he’s two decades old.

“I still feel really young,” Byron said. “Everything’s going to happen really fast and I feel like I’ve matured a lot this year.”

How do you measure your own maturity when you’re a college student who spends his weekends at race tracks going 180 mph as a living?

“I don’t know,” Byron admits. “I feel like compared to my peers, I obviously feel quite a bit ahead of the guys my age. But in racing, I feel really young. It’s a little bit of both. I’m surrounded by two different environments, when I’m at home it’s a lot different than when I’m racing the guys on the road. I feel like I’ve got a while, but I think I’m in the right direction and hopefully I can run hard with the Cup guys and the guys I used to watch on TV.”

Part of getting comfortable in the mindset of being a Cup driver is simply being comfortable in his car.

“I think really it involves the pouring the seat (getting his seat fitted) and everything for next year and getting all that stuff aligned,” Byron said. “Those races are really long, so you got to make sure all that stuff is really comfortable. Make sure you’re really ready for that. That’s what we’ve been working on mostly. As well as getting to know my crew chief.”

A winner of 11 NASCAR races in the last two years, Byron has been paired with Darian Grubb as his crew chief.

Grubb has 23 Cup wins as a crew chief and won the 2011 championship with Tony Stewart. But since his start as a full-time crew chief in 2007, this will be his first time working with a rookie driver.

“I think for us, it’ll be key just to start out and be consistent at the beginning of the year and kind of progress and compete for wins as the year goes,” Byron said. “I feel like if we can start out consistent, which I know Darian’s really used to having consistency, it’s going to be successful and hopefully we keep progressing each race.”

When it comes to his transition from JR Motorsports to Hendrick Motorsports, Byron is still getting used to his new home.

“I’m starting to figure out my way around the place,” Byron said. “Hopefully (I’ll) be able to know where I need to go to get all the information I need.”

He’ll have plenty of time to figure it out, even though he’ll be racing like he’s running out of it.

Scan All: Miami — the best from the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400

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This week’s Scan All: Miami combined not only regular scanner traffic from team radios during Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400, but also studio cut-ins of Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn talking about their road to the Cup championship.

Here’s some of the best exchanges:

Martin Truex Jr. on coming into the race: “I felt good all weekend, I really did. I was relaxed and knew that no matter what happened, we had a great season and a lot to be proud of and a lot to build upon for the future.”

Truex on his team radio just before the green flag: “We’ve been working a long time to get here. I can’t say enough about how proud I am of you guys and what you’ve done. Thank you for an unbelieveable season. Let’s cap it off tonight.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. just before the green flag: “I just want to thank everybody that’s had an impact on my career. I’ve made friendships and relationships that’ll last a lifetime, and I’m just so thankful for that.”

Aric Almirola on his last start for Richard Petty Motorsports: “King, if you’re on the air, thanks for that phone call six years ago. It’s been a lot of fun driving this 43 car.”

Crew chief Darian Grubb to Kasey Kahne on his final start with Hendrick Motorsports: “I know it’s an emotional day for everybody. I’m proud to be able to call you teammate and even more proud to be able to continue to call you friend after this, bud.”

Kahne’s reply (while holding back tears): “Thank you guys for everything, man.”

Kahne’s spotter, Kevin Hamlin, to Grubb: “Man, you’ve got to make him cry before we go green?”

Cole Pearn on Kyle Larson getting a run: “The 42 is running the wall. He’s hauling ass.”

Clayton Hughes, spotter for Truex: “How about this, Martin Truex Jr., you are the champion, baby!”

Truex in studio cut-in on winning championship: “It was our time. There’s no doubt in my mind that it was our time. Sometimes, things are meant to be.”

Check out the whole Scan All segment in the video above.

NASCAR America: Darian Grubb preparing to serve as William Byron’s crew chief next season

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Darian Grubb is a busy man these days.

He’s in the middle of finishing out the season as crew chief for Kasey Kahne on Hendrick Motorsports’s No. 5 Chevrolet. But he’s also preparing to crew chief for William Byron next season on the No. 24 Chevrolet. Grubb was announced as Byron’s crew chief earlier this week.

Grubb, who won the 2011 Cup championship with Tony Stewart, talked with NASCAR America’s Dave Burns about what it is like preparing to work with a rookie for the first time.

“A lot of it is going to be learning what he doesn’t know about the history of the races and how they work and what’s going on with the strategy and scenarios,” Grubb said. “He’s a pretty big student of the sport. He’s a pretty bright individual and I think he’s already got most of it down pat.”

Byron has three wins this season in the Xfinity Series and he won a rookie record seven times last year in the Camping World Truck Series.

Grubb still has three races left in his interim crew chief role with Kahne. Grubb took over the position from Keith Rodden after the playoff opener at Chicagoland.

Grubb said his time working with Kahne was a way for him to find out if he still wanted to be a crew chief full-time. Grubb had been serving as director of competition systems for Hendrick since August.

“I was always behind the scenes being able to say ‘you shouldn’t have made this call or you shouldn’t have made that call,'” Grubb said. “It’s a little bit interesting for me to try and learn see what’s going on different.”

Watch the above video for the full interview.

Darian Grubb to serve as crew chief for William Byron in 2018 (video)

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Darian Grubb will be William Byron‘s crew chief next season in Byron’s rookie Cup campaign, Hendrick Motorsports announced Wednesday.

The move completes the driver-crew chief lineup for 2018 at Hendrick Motorsports. Alan Gustafson remains with Chase Elliott, Chad Knaus remains with Jimmie Johnson and Greg Ives will be with Alex Bowman.

“This is our last major piece of the puzzle for next season,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “Darian is an all-around terrific person and a proven winner. The experience and leadership he brings will be a difference-maker for William and everyone on the team. He has a clear vision for the future and already is plugged in with our other crew chiefs. He’s a great fit.’’

Grubb won the 2011 Cup title with Tony Stewart. Grubb joined Joe Gibbs Racing from 2012-15, winning nine races. He rejoined Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 — he was with the organization from 2003-08 — to oversee race car manufacturing as vehicle production director and was promoted to director of competition systems in August. Last month, Grubb was named crew chief for the No. 5 team of Kasey Kahne for the remaining nine races of the season, replacing Keith Rodden. In 2018, that No. 5 team will field the No. 24 car for Byron.

“The opportunity to work with William and the No. 24 team is big,” said Grubb, a native of Floyd, Virginia, with a mechanical engineering degree from Virginia Tech. “William is a phenomenal young driver and already a great communicator in the race car. I’m looking forward to building a strong relationship with him and working with Alan, Chad, Greg and all of our talented people. Everyone on the team will be committed to continuing the winning tradition of the No. 24.’’

Said Byron: “I have so much respect for Darian and everything he’s accomplished in this sport. There aren’t many people with a résumé like his, and I will definitely tap into that knowledge from day one. He knows how to win races and win championships. To have that kind of person leading the No. 24 team gives me a ton of confidence about what we can all do together.”

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Darian Grubb named Kasey Kahne’s crew chief for remainder of playoffs (video)

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Kasey Kahne will have Darian Grubb as his crew chief for the remaining nine races of the NASCAR Cup playoffs and Kahne’s tenure with Hendrick Motorsports, the team announced Monday.

Grubb replaces Keith Rodden, who has been with Kahne on the No. 5 Chevrolet since 2015. Hendrick makes the move after Kahne finished 21st, three laps down in Sunday’s playoff-opening race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kahne, who qualified for the playoffs with his Brickyard 400 win in July, left Chicagoland 15th in the playoff standings, five points behind the cutoff for the second round.

The Brickyard 400 win was the only one for Kahne and Rodden in their three seasons together at Hendrick. It is Rodden’s only victory in 138 races as a Cup crew chief. The Indy win also is Kahne’s only top-10 finish in the last 17 races.

Before taking over crew chief duties on the No. 5 in 2015, Rodden worked with Kahne on the No. 5 from 2012-13 as the lead engineer before moving to Chip Ganassi Racing for one season.

That one year was the only gap for Rodden in more than a decade of working on cars driven by Kahne.

Rodden remains under contract to Hendrick Motorsports through the end of this season. The team said he will be assigned other responsibilities.

“I’m looking forward to working with the team for the rest of the season,” Grubb said in a press release. “I enjoy competing in a playoffs environment, and we have tremendous resources at Hendrick Motorsports to pull from. I’m ready to get started this weekend.”

Grubb returned to Hendrick Motorsports in January 2016 as the vehicle production director and was recently promoted to director of competition systems.

Grubb originally joined Hendrick in January 2003, where he worked as the lead race engineer for the No. 48 team through 2006, including four races as interim crew chief during the team’s 2006 championship season when Chad Knaus was suspended to start the season. Johnson won two of those races, including the Daytona 500.

Grubb earned one win in 2007 as crew chief for Casey Mears before being named engineering manager for the No. 5 and 88 teams for 2008.

“Darian is an extremely talented and experienced crew chief,” said Hendrick Motorsports president Marshall Carlson in the press release. “Having been back with us for more than 20 months, he knows all of our people and processes. There’s no one more prepared to hit the ground running at this point in the year.”

Grubb was the crew chief for Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2011 when he won five races in the playoffs on the way to winning his third Cup title. From 2012-15, Grubb worked for Joe Gibbs Racing, earning nine wins with Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards.