NASCAR America: William Byron, Alex Bowman have very different racing roots

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The routes William Byron and Alex Bowman took to become full-time drivers for Hendrick Motorsports beginning next year couldn’t be more different.

Bowman, 24, grew up racing in Arizona and rose up through USAC and ARCA before he wound up competing full-time in the Cup series from 2014-15 with small teams. In 2016, without a full-time ride, he substituted for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 10 races as he recovered from a concussion. His performance led to Hendrick hiring him to drive the No. 88 full-time starting next season.

Byron, 19, went to his first NASCAR race at 7 when his father took him to Martinsville Speedway. But the native of Charlotte, North Carolina, didn’t begin racing until five years ago. Byron got his first taste what it could be like on the iRacing simulator game and is now nearing the end of his rookie season in the Xfinity Series. With JR Motorsports, Byron has three wins, including at Daytona and Indianapolis.

Byron will drive the No. 24 Chevrolet next season.

On NASCAR America, both drivers discussed they’re drastically different paths to the top of stock car racing.

Bowman said he wasn’t ready for Cup racing when the opportunity came.

“I feel like some of my (career) moves were necessary and forced almost,” Bowman said. “I didn’t want to go Cup racing when I first went Cup racing by any means. It was go Cup racing or sit on the couch. … I got to do two years full-time in the Cup Series with really nobody watching and no expectations.”

Byron is getting his Cup shot after winning a K&N Pro Series title, winning a rookie record seven races in the Camping World Truck Series and making it deep into the Xfinity playoffs.

“It was different for me because I didn’t come from a racing family,” Byron said. “So I didn’t have the expectations of going out there and winning.”

Watch the above video for more, including the drivers talking about the importance of their fathers to their careers.