William Byron, who clinched the 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship in the final race of his rookie season, Oct. 3 at Dover International Speedway, launched his racing career in a similar manner as he began his undergraduate studies at Liberty University — online.
The Liberty-sponsored driver began competing on the iRacing.comsimulator, posting more than 100 wins and nearly 300 top-five finishes in the online competition that has more than 50,000 members.
After shifting gears from virtual racing to actual driving — winning 33 of 69 races to become the Legend Car Young Lions Division champion at the age of 15 in 2013 — Byron also dual-enrolled in Liberty University Online Academy, to get a jumpstart on his college education.
That opened the door for the current senior at Charlotte (N.C.) Country Day School, who will turn 18 in November, to sign a sponsorship deal with Liberty in March 2014.
“William Byron (is) a young man who possesses the skills and values of a champion, not only on the racetrack, but personally and professionally as well,” Liberty President Jerry Falwell said in the Summer 2014 issue of the Liberty Journal. “William, like so many of Liberty’s students, applied the skills he developed and refined through virtual education technologies to achieve practical success.”
Starting next fall, Byron plans to pursue a business degree as a full-time residential student at Liberty, while completing his first season on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
On Oct. 3, Byron led 57 laps before driving his No. 9 Liberty University Chevrolet to a ninth-place finish at the rain-delayed Drive Sober 125 presented by the Delaware Office of Highway Safety. Based on points, that clinched his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship in a season that included three pole position starts, four victories, five top-five finishes, and 11 top-10 showings.
“We were able to lead early and just wanted to finish in the right position so we could bring home the championship,” Byron said. “It’s just been a huge accomplishment for our team.”
“It’s been a blast,” Byron said. “This being my third year racing, in a racecar, it’s all been new to me. We’re learning on the fly, but it’s been exciting. We’ve gone to a lot of different race tracks and we’ve picked up a few wins along the way and we’ve had a lot of fun, so I can’t thank these guys enough (crew chief Kevin Bellicourt and team owner Harry Scott Jr.) and Liberty University as well.”
Bellicourt thanked his pit crew and Byron for the best season he has experienced in NASCAR.
“I have an amazing team,” he said. “I am the luckiest crew chief in the world. My guys are the best on pit road and they make my job as easy as it could be from Day One and William made it pretty easy, too. Right from the start, I knew how talented he was. He’s so fast and he’s just a great kid. He’s going to be around for a long time.”
Scott Jr. said Byron is clearly a rising star in the sport.
“One of the biggest advantages to being involved at this level is you develop relationships with young drivers like William who are very talented, that are obviously going to rise through the ranks of NASCAR,” he said. “We’re really fortunate to have drivers like William and, with the support of Liberty University, it’s a fantastic opportunity and it’s very rewarding for me, personally.”
Through all of his recent successes, Byron has managed to keep his racing career in perspective and balance his high school and college-level course load.
“It’s tough, but I think over time I’ve become accustomed to it,” Byron said. “The biggest thing it does for me is it keeps me humble. I just go to the racetrack and do my thing on the weekends and stay focused during school and work hard.
“Especially with Liberty University being my sponsor and taking online classes, they’ve helped me structure my schooling where I can base it around my racing schedule,” Byron told FoxSports.com in a story posted on Tuesday. “That’s been a big advantage and I think it’s working out pretty well.
“I feel like I’m very balanced in the way I approach races. I can watch videos and my schooling helps me become a little bit smarter and helps me think on my feet when I’m at the racetrack.”
Byron and the rest of the top NASCAR K&N Pro Series East drivers will be honored at the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards at the Charlotte Convention Center/NASCAR Hall of Fame on Saturday, Dec. 12.
Before then, Byron will make an on-campus visit to Liberty and have his racecar parked near Williams Stadium over Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 23-24.
-Liberty University News Source. Photo Credit: Speed51.com