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NASCAR Cup Darlington

William Byron: NASCAR "going through a change for the better"

Off to the best start of his career and with NASCAR seeing higher at-track attendance and TV ratings, William Byron’s timing couldn’t be better.

The 24-year-old Cup Series driver signed a three-year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports that will retain him as the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet through the 2025 season.

That will put Byron in the position of negotiating his next deal just as NASCAR’s current 10-year TV contract expires at the conclusion of the 2024 season.

The introduction of the Next Generation car in the Cup Series this season came with plenty of hype and the preseason Clash held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum kicked off the new season with a big bang.

Byron, a relative newcomer to NASCAR, also appears to be finding his groove just as the sport looks to have received a much-needed revival in interest.

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“I think our sport is going through a big change; a change for the better, really. We’re really thriving I think as a sport – seeing how much the fans are turning out to the races, how the TV ratings are and things like that,” he said.

“It’s exciting. For somebody like me coming into the sport, I’m 24-years-old and hopefully have a long career ahead. I want to see this sport do well. I want to see fans be interested in what I’m doing.

“I’ve got a lot of support from friends from high school, and things like that, that are watching the races. I didn’t get those messages a few years ago, so it’s cool to see that. Hopefully, as drivers, we can continue to benefit from the success of the sport.”

Becoming a title threat

Byron, whose first Cup Series start came less than four years ago, is one of only two drivers so far this season with multiple wins. He’s ranked third in the series standings entering Sunday’s race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

His recent success – which included a victory and 10th place finish in the series standings last year – put him in a good bargaining position on a contract extension, something the iRacing standout has not been accustomed to.

“This is kind of my first deal outside of my rookie contract and I think that it’s good to kind of understand the economic sense of the sport a little bit more as I’ve gotten older, and start to understand all of the moving parts and what goes into it,” Byron said.

“I thought (the process) was educational and fair. Definitely left me excited and looking forward to the years ahead. It was different, for sure. But I’m happy with it. I’m happy with how everything turned out.”

In this week’s announcement, team owner Rick Hendrick said he believed Byron had “only just begun to scratch the surface of his potential.”

Byron agrees, believing he really turned the corner last season with his reunion with crew chief Rudy Fugle, who had worked with him in the Truck Series.

“Everything we did last year was great and it kind of set a good foundation for what is important to us and how we’re going to approach our season,” he said. “What we want to go for – obviously playoff points was a big part of that and trying to get more of those.

“It’s all just about communication. I feel like Rudy and I communicate well. We can have a lot of success. What I like about him is that after a tough race, he digs his feet in deeper and figures out how to solve problems.

“He’s a problem solver and I like that aspect. I think that’s why we’ve always been good. We’re able to rally from bad races, get closer together and go work on it.”

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