William Byron hoists the XFINITY Series championship trophy Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (NASCAR photo)

All told, the 19-year-old notched four wins, 12 top-fives, 22 top-10s and two poles during a season of redemption, finally putting the sting of missing out on last year’s Truck Series championship behind him.

“Last year hurt, I won’t lie,” admitted Byron before Saturday’s finale. “That was tough to swallow … to not have the shot at it we felt like we deserved. But we’ve bounced back this year. We came out to perform and I feel like we’ve done that.”

He did that to perfection in the title-deciding race, despite the late-race clash with his teammate in which neither was willing to give an inch with everything on the line.

“That was all I had. Elliott drove an awesome race. We rubbed a little bit, but we didn’t wreck each other, which was really cool and really important to me,” said Byron. “This is the best race track for a championship race, because you can slide around, move around and search for a place on the track where your car works really well.”

“I felt like when Elliott got by me, I learned a few things, and vice versa when I would get around him. We knew his car was strong on the long runs; we figured that out in practice. We just had to find another gear at the end, run against the wall and find the speed we needed.”

Byron becomes the sixth driver from the state of North Carolina to win the XFINITY Series title, and the first Tar Heel State native to accomplish the feat since Brian Vickers did so in 2003.

His car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., was all smiles on the championship stage after watching a season in which he said Byron “did everything right.”

However, that didn’t mean that Earnhardt wasn’t a ball of emotions during the closing stages Saturday night.

“Those last 20 laps were the hardest 20 laps that I have ever had to watch. Watching William and Elliott duke it out, man, it was a lot of emotions,” Earnhardt admitted. “It was hard to watch (Sadler) lose a championship and (Byron) win one all at the same time, because (as a car owner), you kind of get ripped in two.”

Still, the retiring Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star reveled in his team’s second driver’s championship.

“I am so happy for all the employees at JR Motorsports,” Earnhardt smiled. “This really affects a lot of people and their livelihood. We did some good things tonight; we had three cars in the top four in points and finished second in the owner’s championship.”

“It’s been a big year for us and a big year for William, too. I’m excited for him and for his future, he drove like a veteran all year, much less tonight. He deserves a lot of credit. Dave and the guys gave him a great race car.”

And as for Byron? The megawatt smile he carried as he hoisted the championship trophy won’t be going away anytime soon.

“This has been a really big year for me, one of the biggest in my life,” Byron said. “I dreamed of getting to this point … it’s just crazy how it’s all played out. I couldn’t be more thankful to everyone who’s helped me achieve what I have. I feel so blessed.”


About the Writer

jacobseelmanJacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network, as well as a periodic contributor to SPEED SPORT Magazine.

Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.

The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

Email Jacob at: editor@racechaseronline.com

Follow on Twitter: @Speed77Radio or @JacobSeelman77

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Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman, 24, is the founder and managing editor of 77 Sports Media and a major contributing writer for SPEED SPORT Magazine. He is studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. and also serves as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

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