January 22, 2014 — Audio and story by Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — LWpictures.com photo — Sometimes two is better than one.
And for 16-year-old William Byron, that means life just got a whole lot better.
Byron was announced last week as the newest addition to the JR Motorsports Late Model program for 2014, just two months removed from his debut season in Legends cars competition which saw him cement the 2013 Young Lions division National Championship.
Byron, a sophomore at Charlotte Country Day School, competed in 69 races across the United States in 2013, posting 59 top-five and 64 top-10 finishes. He collected Young Lion division victories in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Legends All-Star Race, LegendStock at Bethel (N.Y) Motor Speedway and the U.S. Legends Race of Champions at Lake Erie (Pa.) Speedway.
“This is an unbelievable opportunity for me,” Byron said. “Last year was my first full season racing period, so to be able to join JR Motorsports and learn from Josh and L.W. in just my second season racing is amazing. I’m extremely excited and I really expect both Josh and I to be able to compete for wins everywhere we go this year. I’ll be disappointed if I can’t get a couple along the way.”
Josh Berry, the 2012 track champion at Motor Mile Speedway who will be Byron’s teammate for the 2014 season, echoes the optimism of his young charge.
“It’s an exciting time for our late model program,” Berry said. “I look forward to working with William this year and helping him get up to speed like so many guys helped me when I first started.”
Byron will compete at both Hickory Motor Speedway and Motor Mile (Va.) Speedway in 2014 as a part of the JRM team in addition to competing behind the wheel of his US Legend Car at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in both the Winter Heat Series, which concludes in two weeks’ time, and the Summer Shootout Series, where the young upstart will look to claim the championship that narrowly eluded him a year ago.
“I’m ready to go back and try to get the Shootout championship this year,” Byron said enthusiastically. “Moving up to the Pro class, it’s gonna be a lot tougher, but if we can pull it off, it would mean that much more to me to win it. We came so close last year, I’m fired up for this year.”
Fired up might be an understatement. Byron has always been exceptionally dedicated, participating in numerous outside activities while still finishing his rookie season behind the wheel and attending classes at Charlotte Country Day School.
“My parents taught me that school came first before any outside activities,” stated Byron. “I played football up until this past year and the discipline of that sport helped me tremendously with time management. Juggling school, racing, working towards becoming an Eagle Scout and just being a teenager was difficult…but my passion for racing kept me focused and driven.”
Since he was six years old, William and his father Bill shared a passion for motorsports that has helped develop a bond that is as strong as ever today as Byron ascends the ladder towards the top level of racing, and if you ask, Byron is quick to point out that a great deal of his success is owed to the sacrifices made by his family.
“My family has had the biggest impact on my life, not just as parents but as supporters of my decision to race,” the Charlotte native emphasized. “In the fall of last year I went to them and proposed my racing plan. They have been incredibly supportive in ways that have taken a great deal of their time like driving me to practice sessions and races and helping me juggle my crazy schedule. Without them I would not have accomplished what I did this year.”
Now, Byron has a chance to make tracks behind the wheel of two very different race cars in 2014. He’s already shown what he can do behind the wheel of a Legends Car, but he knows the late model is a whole different animal. His new team owner on the late model side, however, has faith in his abilities.
“William has shown he has tremendous raw talent,” said JRM team manager L.W. Miller, who has also competed for years on the NASCAR WHELEN Southern Modified Tour. “It’s very rare to see a guy win so quickly. Coming from legends cars, he’ll be able to rely on Josh to make the transition to late models. We are excited to see what both these guys can do this year.”
“I’ve just got two very different fronts to work from this year,” Byron added. “It’s a step-up, and I know it won’t be easy, but I want to make it happen in both cars so everyone will see that I’m more than just a flash in the pan. I’m here to stay.”
Listen in as we got a chance to talk with William shortly after the announcement, hearing his emotions and expectations surrounding 2014: