Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Daytona Speedweeks–Media Day–William Byron

FEBRUARY 13, 2019

WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Daytona 500 Media Day to discuss being the pole sitter for the Daytona 500, iRacing and many other topics. Full Transcript:

How does ‘polesitter’ feel, knowing that no matter what happens tomorrow night, as long as you don’t wreck, you’re on the pole?
WILLIAM BYRON: No, it’s good. It’s awesome to be on the pole. I’m looking forward to what it brings for us, what we can succeed with. I mean, just to be able to qualify on the pole like that is a goal of ours. It’s awesome.

This is year two. Going into this as the polesitter, everything that went on last year, how does it compare to the first time?

WILLIAM BYRON: It’s a lot different just because I don’t have to go through everything for the first time. I know my way around the racetrack, kind of know my way around on and off the track.

It definitely takes a lot of the pressure off, a lot of the edge off last year. I can just go out there and focus on racing.

What is your approach to the Duels?

WILLIAM BYRON: That’s a great question. I think we try to kind of see what happens. But I think with us starting up front, that’s a great thing. Hopefully we can keep it up there for a while and see what happens. Just kind of play it by ear, see how the race unfolds, if it’s calm or reckless like it was last year. We’ll see what happens.

Now that you’ve been around the circuit once, what is different about Daytona and why is it difficult to win?

WILLIAM BYRON: It’s just a tough track to get ahold of. There’s a lot of hype around the event. I think a lot of people bring in new cars, new things to the table. It’s the first race of the year where you really get a chance to think about how to manage all that.
I think it’s just a very unpredictable race.

Which is tougher, the first race, 10th race?

WILLIAM BYRON: First race. First race is the biggest race for us, so that’s different.

If you hadn’t done iRacing, where would you be right now?

WILLIAM BYRON: I’d probably be sitting behind a desk at a school somewhere. Yeah, it’s different. I mean, I’m very thankful to be able to race like I do. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s pretty awesome.

When did you get into iRacing in the first place?

WILLIAM BYRON: I started iRacing when I was 13. I was doing it through 13 to 14, really then got started in real cars. Just kind of took off from there.
You started late by comparison. What was the spark that finally made you think you needed to get into this?

WILLIAM BYRON: Gosh, I think just watching on TV and just seeing all the kids my age racing cars, thinking, Man, if I could ever do that one day, maybe I’d have a shot at racing. Just like any other kid out there, they’re probably sitting at home watching races saying, Man, this kid is on the pole, whatever, maybe I can do that one day.
That was me. I was dreaming of racing like that. I was fortunate to get those opportunities. Never looked back after that.

What would you tell that 15-year-old kid at Rockingham?

WILLIAM BYRON: Whew. Well, I’d say I’ve probably learned more about being a person than I have anything else. Maturing. My friends are going through things for the first time. I kind of have been through those things. I had to grow up fast.
I’d say just I had to grow up, try to have a little fun along the way with other things, too.

What do you remember from the first race?

WILLIAM BYRON: I was just super nervous, just trying to do the little things right. What I remember most about racing is how pure it was when I first started. I try to keep it that way.

Lucky to have a lot of people around me in the team with Chad and the whole team that keep racing as the central focus of the sport.

(No microphone.)

WILLIAM BYRON: You just got to remember why you love doing what you do, what makes you want to do it so bad, not letting all the other stuff clog why you do it. You just have to focus on why you’re racing and what makes you love it so much.

Why are you racing?

WILLIAM BYRON: I love the sport. I mean, there’s a part of me that is so competitive, I crave the ability to go out there and prove that we can do something that we didn’t maybe think we could do. I just love the thrill of getting in the racecar every week.

Now that you have a year of Cup racing under your belt, how big a step was it to go from Xfinity to Cup?

WILLIAM BYRON: It’s huge. You take the five or ten people you race against in the Xfinity Series, you put 30 to 35 guys that are as good as that out on the track. A bad day is a lot worse.

I’d say it grinds on you mentally because you have to go through every week. It’s really on you to manage your time, manage everything that comes along with the Cup Series. There’s nobody else going to give you a pamphlet for how it’s going to work. Everybody has their own way of doing it, which is so different than anywhere else.

How big a deal was it to get the first pole out of the way on the first day of the year?

WILLIAM BYRON: It’s great. First accomplishment for us for the year. We got a lot of things we want to do this year. First one to check off the list is good.

It seems like y’all have found form quickly with Chad.

WILLIAM BYRON: We have. He’s exciting to work with. He’s super into anything racing related, whether its car related or driver related. He’s helped me a lot with a lot of things I didn’t really expect him to really care about that much.
He cares about me as a person. That builds a level of trust and respect between us. Still a lot. Still very fresh and very new of a relationship. We’ve worked a lot in the off-season to make sure it’s the way it should be.

(Question about the transition to Cup.)

WILLIAM BYRON: I mean, I think I dealt with it pretty well. I think there was a lot of things that happened over the course of the year, but I didn’t really let that kind of hinder my confidence in myself.

Whether that’s going and racing other things, trying to just do something where you can win, like whether it’s just racing in a go-kart at the track. You got to do something and win. If you don’t keep winning, you forget what that’s like. I try to do that stuff.

I heard you say how much you love and like. Is there a fine line between the determination and success?

WILLIAM BYRON: A fine line between loving it?

And liking it. You’re maybe more determined for success.

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, its kind of goes hand-in-hand. If you want to ultimately get the most satisfaction out of it, you want to succeed.
I don’t know. That’s a good question, whether I would just love to be a part of it or love to actually succeed. I think I’d more love to succeed or I wouldn’t be a part of it.

Are you still in school?

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, yeah. I’m a junior in college right now. I’m still enrolled, still doing my class work there.

How do you balance that with racing?

WILLIAM BYRON: It’s tough. Liberty does a good job of kind of helping me with that. Honestly, I kind of do the work during the week, get it knocked out of the way before I get to the track. There’re a couple things here and there I have to do. For the most part they let me do it on my schedule every week by Monday or so.

It’s busy, but it works out.
If you look at the whole season, how you would characterize your rookie year?

WILLIAM BYRON: I mean, honestly, I don’t think about it that much right now. I kind of blocked out most of that last year other than the things I learned about myself mentally. But honestly there’s not really a lot that’s similar to last year with us, besides the number and the way the car looks.

Don’t really think about it.

Q. (No microphone.)

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, Parker and I were racing on iRacing Monday night, I guess. I got home from some media stuff. There’s really not anything for me to prepare to race the Duels. I might as well run iRacing. We happened to be in the same race. We worked together like we got through the field, worked on a couple moves.

IRacing has to improve the drafting model a little bit. There’s like one lane, which I guess is kind of what the Clash was. Everybody was on the bottom. We couldn’t really make it work. We tried. It was fun. Might be too realistic.

Does that happen often, where you get on iRacing, finding you’re racing a Cup driver?

WILLIAM BYRON: Not very often. I mean, let’s say there’s 80 people that sign up for a race. It’s based off ratings. Usually you’re in the same bracket of rating. No, it doesn’t happen much. It is cool when it does.

Were you going to win or Parker?

WILLIAM BYRON: Oh, man. So, I was running, like, fourth. I was making the outside lane work. I kept dropping down and kind of pinching people off. We came to pit road and I screwed all of that up. I couldn’t change the fuel I wanted to put in the car. Everybody took two tires. I took four. I came out, like, 20th. He would have won actually after that. He finished fourth.

You said that’s something you can do to prepare. How much does it really help?

WILLIAM BYRON: I mean, it helps. Does Michael Jordan play basketball without practicing? I think it’s the weirdest thing that our sport goes out there with no practice and goes and races. Especially as a rookie, you don’t get a chance to really do much.
I try to use it as much as I can.

What carries over?

WILLIAM BYRON: Just racing. Just working traffic, some of the lines you run at different tracks. All of it really carries over, other than some of the things you can’t really teach. Once you get out here, you kind of learn those things. There’s a lot of things.

Given the fact that you ran a lap on Sunday, have three days before you race again, are you getting antsy at this point?
WILLIAM BYRON: I’m ready to get in a car. I’m tired of talking about it. I just want to go race. Can’t wait to get into the car.

This is the 40th anniversary of the Daytona 500 that they say made the sport, Richard Petty winning. What does that sense of history mean to some of the younger drivers?

WILLIAM BYRON: I mean, I’m so young, I wasn’t around for a lot of that. I guess, like, growing up watching honestly Jimmie and Chad win races at the 500, then watching Kevin Harvick win 2007. Those are the races that stick in my mind.
I’m trying to make memories of myself. It’s cool to see some of that stuff come around furl circle.

(Question about Chad.)

WILLIAM BYRON: Probably. We’re not in the same age bracket. There’s so much knowledge there. He’s a young-at-heart kind of guy.

When is the first time you met him?

WILLIAM BYRON: I met him probably three years ago when I started racing for Junior Motorsports.

Was that pretty cool? You grew up watching him and Jimmie.

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, it was cool. It was fun. I mean, just to watch him dominate races, now be a part of what we have going on. It’s pretty cool.

Did it ever enter your mind he might someday be your crew chief?

WILLIAM BYRON: No, definitely not. Definitely not. That’s a crazy thought to think a couple years ago, that I could have him as a crew chief. But a huge honor and something that I’m looking forward to.

Are you ready to break the pole winner’s drought here at Daytona? Not since 2000 that the pole winner won the race.

WILLIAM BYRON: That would be awesome. Hopefully if it’s in the plan, I guess meant to be, it will be. We’ll see what happens.

You said other than the number on the car, pretty much everything is different. Talk about your mentality, the team.

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, we’ve taken a no-holds-barred approach this year of trying to go out there and take names and win races. I think that mentality will continue for us. We’re looking forward to that.

(No microphone.)
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, we want to win races. There’s a lot of things that we aspire to do this year. I think just one of those things is kind of bringing the 24 car back to the legacy that it has. We’ve got a lot of potential to do that. We just got to go out there and capitalize on that.

It’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication and a lot of smart decisions. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.

(No microphone.)
WILLIAM BYRON: I do. I do. I think it helps. It’s just kind of one other thing that I have to worry about. I think sometimes it can be a hindrance, but a lot of times it’s a great thing. It’s something that really helps me become well-rounded.

When during the process of your career arc as a whole did you think you could do this professionally?

WILLIAM BYRON: Gosh, I guess I was 17 years old that I really thought I could do it professionally when I first won a championship in the K&N Series. That was a building block towards the future. Probably the first time I felt that way.

At the K&N race the other night, they said that’s the largest track they’re going to run at. Do you have any suggestions to that series of something they should add to it to make a better transition?

WILLIAM BYRON: I think they need to keep running the bigger tracks, Bristol, some of those places, where you learn the most. They need to try to run those tracks, for sure.