William Byron Tackles Classes and the Racetrack
For the majority of those in college, completing coursework weeks in advance is an unrealized luxury. Turning in assignments and discussion board posts at the last possible moment are regular occurrences.
But for Liberty University Online student William Byron, working ahead is a necessity.
Byron, 20, is a rookie driver for Hendrick Motorsports in the Monster Energy Cup Series, the top racing series in NASCAR, as well as a sophomore working toward a degree in business communication.
Liberty University is the primary sponsor of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro that Byron inherited from the legendary Jeff Gordon for a dozen races this season and 12 more races in 2019, according to a team release on NASCAR’s official website.
“The support from Liberty University has been a critical part of my career in racing,” Byron said in an email.
Byron, Gordon and Rick Hendrick, the owner of Hendrick Motorsports, came to Lynchburg Aug. 30 as the guests of the first Convocation at Liberty in the fall 2017 semester.
Byron said the school began sponsoring him when he was 16-years-old, around a year after he got to know University President Jerry Falwell.
“I’ve always had a close relationship with him and he’s been an important part of my growth as a driver and as a student,” Byron said of Falwell. “He’s been a great influence for me and has helped me a lot.”
Byron has also significantly benefited from a relationship he has been able to forge with another prominent individual, Jimmie Johnson. Johnson is a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
“He has a completely different background than I do, so learning how he drives the car and how he digests what’s happening on the racetrack is really good for me,” Byron said. “There are similarities to how we drive, but sometimes we have different ideas that we can compare.”
Byron also said that Johnson is an “open book” that he learns from each weekend at the racetrack.
The first weekend of Byron’s 2018 competition culminated with the 60th running of the “Great American Race” at Daytona International Speedway in Florida Feb. 18.
According to a race recap on his official website, Byron was in 11th place before getting involved in the first of multiple wrecks on the day on Lap 45 of 200. He managed to finish in 23rd place at the Daytona 500.
One week later, at the Atlanta Motor Speedway Feb. 25, Byron battled inclement weather to finish in 18th place, improving from where he started by five spots.
The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in Atlanta was the debut of the Liberty-sponsored No. 24, which Byron unveiled during halftime of Liberty’s Homecoming football game against Kennesaw State Oct. 14.
Byron will be competing the next three Sundays in a car sporting a paint job from another one of his sponsors, Axalta, starting with the Pennzoil 400 in Las Vegas, Nevada, March 4.
Byron, the youngest full-time driver in the Cup Series this year, will represent his school for the second time in the STP 500 in Martinsville, Virginia, March 25.
Drivers get a week off for Easter before returning April 8 to Texas Motor Speedway for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
It is during that break when Byron may use the free weekend to continue to stay ahead in his studies.
“In previous years, I might wait to the last minute to do things, but this year, I’ve been staying on top of my assignments and getting them done weeks in advance so I can stay focused when I’m at the racetrack,” Byron said.