Sixteen-year-old William Byron's 2014 season has been a learning experience. He has gotten most of his at-track education in the Late Model Stock ranks, competing regularly at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina with JR Motorsports. The Charlotte, North Carolinian had one win, nine poles and finished second in the season standings to teammate Josh Berry. Byron recently finished 18th at Martinsville Speedway (VA) in the MDCU 300.
As the Late Model Stock Car season begins to wind down, Byron is set for his next challenge. This weekend Byron will make his Pro Late Model debut at South Alabama Speedway in Alabama Pro 125 in a ride owned by Late Model champion Daniel Hemric. This will be the first of three races that Byron will run as he will also compete in the All American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN) in November and the Allen Turner Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway (FL) in December.
"I'm really excited about that," said Byron. "I think we've got great chances in each of those races. It's going to be a different car for me than I've ever driven, but with Daniel's help at a couple of new tracks I think I'll learn a lot."
The relationship between Byron and Hemric was formed in the Legends ranks at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Summer Shootout.
"We've stayed great friends after we met two years ago," said Byron. "We started racing each other in Pro and this past year at the Summer Shootout. We've had a ton of fun. Racing him is about the best you can get. I've learned a bunch from him. I didn't think there was anything more fitting than to drive for him and get a good chance to succeed in Pro Late Models and learn from him. So I'm pumped about it."
Future Pro Late Model and perhaps Super Late Model plans could be in the works depending on the success level of this three-race run.
Byron will still have a few Late Model Stock Car starts mixed in with his Pro Late Model races to finish 2014.
"We still have Myrtle Beach with JR Motorsports." said Byron. "I'm going to do Southern National with Sellers because with the JR Motorsports team we are going have a break before Myrtle Beach. So we'll do that with Sellers at Southern National. Then we have one more race, the Fall Brawl at Hickory then we'll take a break until next year and then race next year with JR Motorsports on the side of the other stuff that I do with K&N."
At present time Byron's 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East plans are not finalized.
Whether it's working with Hemric or former NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion LW Miller, who is the director of the Late Model program at JR Motorsports, Byron has been a sponge trying to take in all the information.
"LW definitely pushes me really hard to succeed," added Byron. "I guess he saw the potential when I first raced. In my first Late Model race I finished second, but really since the beginning he's pushed me and he's been a great asset because of how great of a racer he was himself."
Byron has also been able to built a relationship with team owner and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
"He's always been a mentor, said Byron. "It's just cool to talk to him. I mean, he's really down to earth and helps us, both Josh and I, and he's very interested in what we are doing. He ran the same tracks we race now and that is cool to hear his insight."
Byron takes an online class with Liberty University, which has a sponsorship deal with Byron when he races. That will continue with these Pro Late Model events and into 2015.
"It's just really about the people you surround yourself with and there's going to be a lot of great people with this Pro Late Model deal, from Hemric and others. Hopefully with their help I can adapt pretty quickly."
- By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Operations Manager. Twitter: @Elgin Traylor - King Charles Photography Photo