William Byron says he’s focused on his rookie season in the Xfinity Series.
That’s fine, but others wonder if he’ll take over the No. 88 car when Dale Earnhardt Jr. retires at the end of this Cup season.
Hendrick Motorsports officials have not stated who they would consider for that ride.
Byron said Friday that he wants to race Cup at some point — what young Xfintiy driver doesn’t? — but he has more pressing concerns.
“Every one of us wants to race in the Cup series,’’ Byron said at Richmond International Raceway. “That’s the ultimate goal. I’d be ready for anything I think.
“Right now it’s just focusing on what I can do at (JR Motorsports) and see what we can do the rest of the year and hopefully compete for a championship.’’
The 19-year-old, who has a driver development contract with Hendrick Motorsports, has rocketed up NASCAR’s ranks since he started racing a Legends car in 2012.
Byron won the K&N Pro Series East title in 2015, won a rookie record seven Camping World Truck races in 2016 and led Kyle Busch Motorsports to the owners title. He has two top-five finishes in seven Xfinity starts this season as a rookie.
While there are different tactics to bringing drivers to Cup, Kyle Larson and Joey Logano are among those who moved quickly to Cup.
Larson ran four Truck races and a full Xfinity season before moving to Cup for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014.
Logano ran one Truck race and 19 Xfinity races before his rookie Cup season in 2009.
While Logano endured struggles, he said Friday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that moving up to Cup quickly can be a good thing.
“I think the only way you get better is racing people better than you,’’ Logano said on the show. “So when you put yourself in a very challenging position, you’re going to get better. Right? If you don’t get beat up too bad that you lose all your confidence and you get thrown out of the sport too quick.
“If you lose the opportunity of driving a Cup car because you got into it too green, you weren’t ready for it. That would be a downfall. Everything else is good because you’re going to make the mistakes and mistakes are a good thing as long as you learn from them.’’
Elliott Sadler, a teammate to Byron at JR Motorsports, praised the young driver’s ability Friday.
“He’s got it,’’ Sadler said. “He’s a guy that is going to go Cup and understands it. I think once he understands these tracks and these races and setting your car up for the longevity of them and making adjustments and stuff like that, once he gets all that down, he’s going to win a bunch of races, not only in Xfinity but also in the Cup Series.
“I’m not sure what his future holds, but my job as a teammate, with the experience, is to try to prepare him and help him as much as I can because the better he runs, the better for all of us at the entire company.’’
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