Back in 2013, William Byron could be found on most Saturday nights on his computer, racing drivers of various skill levels on the iRacing racing simulator. Only a few Legends Car races were the extent of Byron’s racing expertise at that point in his young life.
Fast forward two years and Byron, 17, just accomplished something Saturday night that many Super Late Model drivers – and lately NASCAR drivers – have struggled to do.
Byron beat Chase Elliott.
The driver from Charlotte, North Carolina held off Elliott, the 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series Champion and former Snowball Derby, Winchester 400 and All-American 400 winner, for the victory in the CARS Tour Super Late Model 125 at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway.
Byron, who won a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car race at Hickory in 2014, his rookie stock car racing season, bested his fellow JR Motorsports-affiliated driver in just his third Super Late Model start and first behind the wheel of an LFR Chassis.
“It feels really good,” Byron told Speed51.com powered by JEGS following Saturday’s victory. “I can’t really imagine it. I’m just blessed. Every time I get in the car, it’s a good feeling. I could be sitting home just watching races. To be out here with some of the best guys like Chase Elliott, it’s such a great night.
Byron qualified his Liberty University-backed No. 9 in the fourth position, but it didn’t take long for him to begin his march forward. With longtime short track ace and LFR team manager Jeff Fultz and longtime short track standout and NASCAR racer Corey LaJoie on the radio, Byron was in third position by the third lap. He dispatched Cole Timm for second on lap eight.
A lap 21 restart allowed Byron to get to the outside of early leader and pole sitter Stephen Leicht. At the drop of the green, Byron edged out to a lead that he held to complete lap 22 and would not relinquish for the final 103 laps.
“This is just my third Super Late Model race,” said Byron. “The first one, we did alright, but the second one we got taken out in a wreck at the Rattler, so to come back this strong in our first start with LFR, I can’t say enough about those guys. I’m really pumped to be a part of it.”
To do it, Byron had to hold off Elliott, who, in his car No. 9, charged from his 11th starting position to get to second with 28 laps to go. Elliott got to within a few car lengths, but Byron stretched out his lead in the final laps through lapped traffic.
“I feel like William was really good,” said Elliott. “I don’t know if we could’ve beat him. It would’ve been tough. If we could’ve caught up to him in lapped traffic, it would’ve been really tough to pass him. He was fast.”
That same traffic gave Byron a few headaches in the final stages, but even with only two years of stock car experience under his belt, he handled it with the craftiness of a veteran.
“I got nervous every time I would slip a little bit and have a lapper in front of me and I’d get out of my rhythm,” added Byron. “I’d run a slower lap time than the guy behind me. I’d have to run another fast time to give myself some security. Running at Greenville in the (NASCAR) K&N (Pro Series East) car really helped. It’s just awesome to be here in this great tour.”
Kyle Grissom finished third, ahead of Cole Timm and Preston Peltier in the top five.
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @MattKentfield
– Photo credit: Speed51.com