Byron revved up for first NASCAR Cup Series start Sunday at Daytona 500
The 20-year-old ran the fastest lap (at an average speed of 201.681 mph) during Saturday’s second practice before finishing fifth in Sunday’s qualifying. Starting positions for the majority of the 40-car field will be finalized Thursday night.
Liberty is an associate sponsor of Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the season-opening event, known as the “Great American Race,” and will serve as primary sponsor for 12 Cup Series races in 2018 (see schedule below) and 12 races in 2019.
Byron, a rising star among several young drivers in NASCAR’s premier race series this year, signed a contract with Hendrick Motorsports in August 2016 before clinching the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship as a rookie driver of the No. 9 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., last season.
He was promoted by team owner Rick Hendrick to the Cup Series in August 2017. Byron was joined by Hendrick and fellow NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon at Liberty’s first fall Convocation later that month when it was announced that he would inherit the No. 24 car from Gordon, NASCAR’s winningest Cup Series driver of the modern era. He unveiled his new ride during halftime of the Flames Football Homecoming game.
“This is really a dream come true to be part of the Cup Series and be with a great race team that has a chance to win,” Byron said in a Hendrick Motorsports release. “We have all the resources and tools to do that.”
Byron, a Charlotte, N.C., native, is pursuing a business communications degree at Liberty and spent his first semester on campus.
On Tuesday afternoon, Byron took an hour-long flight with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, enduring up to 9G’s on aerial loops without passing out. That should prepare him well for his first 500-mile race on Sunday, when drivers will experience up to 5G’s on turns.
“The speed and the results are going to come with my confidence,” Byron told the Charlotte Observer. “I’m most confident when I’m in the race car. Maybe outside the car, when I think about all the things I get to do, I start to think about what it means to be at this level. But when I’m in the car, it all goes away. I just focus on what I have to do.”
Sunday’s race will be broadcast by FOX Sports, with coverage starting at 11 a.m. and a Pre-Race Show at 1 p.m. leading up to the 2:30 p.m. start.
Liberty University is the primary sponsor of the No. 24 car for the 2018 races below. View the full Cup Series schedule at NASCAR.com.
FEB. 25: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, Atlanta Motor Speedway (FOX)
MARCH 25: STP 500, Martinsville Speedway (FS1)
APRIL 8: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, Texas Motor Speedway (FS1)
APRIL 29: GEICO 500, Talladega Superspeedway (FOX)
MAY 12: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race at Kansas, Kansas Speedway (FS1)
MAY 27: Coca-Cola 600, Charlotte Motor Speedway (FOX)
JUNE 10: FireKeepers Casino 400, Michigan International Speedway (FOX)
JULY 7: Coke Zero 400, Daytona International Speedway (NBC)
JULY 14: Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts, Kentucky Speedway (NBCSN)
AUG. 18: Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, Bristol Motor Speedway (NBCSN)
SEPT. 9: Big Machine Brickyard 400, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (NBCSN)
SEPT. 22: Federated Auto Parts 400, Richmond International Raceway (NBCSN)