William Byron has found a new love during the COVID-19 pandemic—sprint cars.
With ample time on his hands, the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has expanded his iRacing horizons by venturing into dirt racing.
On April 14, Byron made his WoO debut at virtual Lernerville Speedway. He transferred to the feature and finished 15th against the series regulars.
“I love them,” said Byron of sprint cars. “They're really cool. I really enjoy the way that they are, just because you have to adapt lap after lap, and the variance of the track and the way that the car feels is just incredible how much it changes lap after lap.
“I've been learning about the setup of those cars, too, and just trying to adapt as well as I can. I feel like there's still a lot of room for me to go, but I think there's been some progress there in the last couple of weeks. I'm excited for whenever that next race is. I'm excited to run those again.”
Byron will have that opportunity on Tuesday night as the virtual World of Outlaws series rolls into Williams Grove Speedway. The 22-year-old Charlottean will pilot the No. 25 sprint car in hopes of making the 35-lap NOS Energy Drink Feature. In addition to series regulars—and the Pennsylvania Posse—Byron will have to contend with Logan Seavey, Juan Pablo Montoya and back-to-back Outlaws winner Kevin Swindell.
Unlike drivers who take more traditional routes to professional racing, Byron has relied on iRacing to hone his skills. And he’s one of the more seasoned iRacers in the NASCAR ranks. With his victory at Richmond Raceway on Sunday, Byron became the first NASCAR driver in the Pro Invitational Series to score consecutive wins. But Byron’s not keeping count.
“I've got quite a few,” Byron said. “I don't know between dirt and asphalt really what it is. I've gotten like 12 or 15 dirt wins here recently, but I think that's probably pretty up there. But I think honestly, for me when I first started, things clicked pretty well. I just had to learn the racecraft, and once I learned kind of how to race better, I think that's what translated over for me in the real car, setting up passes and when to be aggressive and whatnot is really what I tried to learn.
“The lap time, anybody can make a pretty good lap time, as you saw in qualifying. The lap times were all pretty close. It's just about race craft and really knowing what to do there.”
Before NASCAR suspended action, Byron was making gains in his third year on the tour and second season with championship crew chief Chad Knaus. Byron improved with every race and posted his first top 10 at Phoenix Raceway.
With his recent iRacing success, Byron believes he’ll be better prepared to return to real NASCAR racing whenever that might be.
“I think it's going to be soon rather than later, and I'm excited about that,” Byron said. “I think, honestly, I've used this time—obviously the iRacing has been a big thing, but I've used this time to grow some confidence in myself and work on some things there, and I'm excited to go back racing when we do. I think we'll have a good opportunity to run well.
“I don't really know when, but I'm just going to wait until I get the official word, and then I'll work accordingly.”