Skip to Content

Daytona 500 champion William Byron credits ‘really unique’ computer racing background for success

By Homero De la Fuente, George Ramsay and Amanda Davies, CNN

(CNN) — Newly-crowned Daytona 500 champion William Byron has explained how a “really unique” background in online racing helped to lay the foundations for his success in motorsports.

Byron weathered a chaotic conclusion to Monday’s rain-delayed event, kickstarting Hendrick Motorsports’ 40th anniversary season with the team’s first victory at the “Great American Race” in 10 years.

As the white flag flew to signal the start of the final lap, Byron was in the lead shortly before NASCAR called a caution when Ross Chastain’s car slid through the infield grass at the famed Daytona International Speedway in Florida.

“Did we win it? Did we win it?” Byron asked in confusion after claiming the victory due to the caution flag, before crew chief Rudy Fugle confirmed the result.

“Well, no one told me. And Rudy was crying on the radio, so I was like, ‘Dude, I hope he’s crying for good reason,’” Byron said after the race. “I guess he was a ball of emotion there, and so I was like ‘Did we actually win or not?’”

Hendrick also enjoyed a 1-2 finish with Alex Bowman placing second after the fifth caution of the day has been called.

For the 26-year-old Byron, the 11th win of his career was a chance to reflect on his unusual journey in the sport.

“I feel like I definitely grew up in the sport very differently,” he told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies on Tuesday. “I just was racing online on the computer, sim racing, and that’s how I learned how to drive.

“It was just a completely different start than a lot of people but I was really fortunate for that background because I felt like that allowed me to learn a lot at a quick rate and once I got into real cars I was able to translate a lot of that.”

It was Hendrick’s ninth Daytona 500 victory, tying Petty Enterprises for the most in the history of the race on the same day that the team celebrated the 40th anniversary of its first Cup Series start.

With eight laps to go, Byron was running fourth when a massive crash – initiated when he was bumped by Bowman, then causing him to hit Brad Keselowski – involved more than half of the 40-car field and prompted a red flag.

That drew a delay of more than 15 minutes, and after the restart, Byron took the lead from Chastain, who moments later wrecked with Austin Cindric, giving the Charlotte native the victory.

“It was really exhilarating,” Byron said on Tuesday about the hectic conclusion to the race. “Your heart rate is just through the roof. I haven’t looked at my heart rate to see what it was last night. I’m sure the data’s really interesting.

“It was so intense those last few laps, just making the right decisions and getting the right pushes from behind and making sure that those pushes were nice and square and smooth.”

Prior to Monday’s victory, Byron had never finished higher than 21st in six starts at the Daytona 500. Behind him and Bowman, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell placed third, Corey Lajoie of Spire Motorsports was fourth, and Bubba Wallace of 23XI Racing rounded out the top five.

Originally scheduled to take place on Sunday, the race was delayed a day due to heavy rain, which also meant that the Pitbull’s pre-race concert was canceled. The rap artist said that he would return to the event to perform in 2025.

There were 41 lead changes between 20 different drivers over the course of the chaotic race, which was being staged for the 66th time.

“It’s pretty surreal, it’s starting to set in just experiencing all the different things that come with being a Daytona 500 winner,” said Byron.

“I’m really excited. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you don’t know if you’re ever going to have a chance to win that race again. It was really special last night.”

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Sports

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

CNN Newsource


KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content