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Byron leads Hendrick young guns at Bristol

Kevin Mays • Apr 14, 2018 at 4:25 PM

BRISTOL—William Byron’s momentum seems to be continuing at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The rookie driver had his best finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series last Sunday at Texas with a 10th-place finish.

Byron qualified Friday to start Sunday’s Food City 500 just out of the top 10 in the 11th position.

Keeping his momentum strong is exactly what the 20-year-old from Charlotte wanted to do at the half-mile BMS.

“Texas was really good for us,” Byron said. “The biggest thing for us this weekend is to hopefully build on what we did last weekend. If we finish top 10 again that would be great.”

Byron is one of three young guns in the Hendrick Motorsports stable driving for legendary owner Rick Hendrick.

The team once featured NASCAR greats and grizzled veterans Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet, which Byron now drives, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. along with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Only Johnson remains from that corps of drivers.

The team has a new, fresh-faced look with Byron, 22-year-old Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Chevrolet and 24-year-old Alex Bowman in Earnhardt’s old No. 88 ride.

Byron admits that racing for such a prestigious, historic, successful team can put a little pressure on him and his younger teammates. But he also said that there is an advantage to having young drivers working together.

“You’re trying to prove yourself and I think all of us are working through learning the cars and learning the new package. Obviously, the best thing we can do is get good feedback and make sure we’re doing everything we can with the cars,” said Byron.

Despite the younger drivers behind the wheels, Byron said the team operations continue to operate as they always have.

“It doesn’t really change that much,” he said. “Maybe from the outside it looks like it changes a lot, but whether it’s young guys or old guys the feedback is usually pretty similar. So we’re just trying to do the best we can.

“There’s some freshness in the company and that’s always good for morale and good to push in the right direction. I think having the younger guys is a little bit of fresh taste in the shop.”

Of course, having a seven-time champion to lean on in Jimmie Johnson as a teammate is not a bad thing for the young guns.

“Jimmie has been super helpful and he’s the guy I go to for advice and clarity on what I’m doing and what he’s feeling also,” said Byron. “During the week we all try to work together to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

While they work together during the week, all four Hendrick cars will be working to get the win on Sunday. It would be the first win in the Monster Energy series for Byron, Elliott or Bowman.

Bowman will start eighth in the Food City 500, while Elliott starts 16th. Johnson, their veteran teammate, will have to start at the back of the field after two tires went flat on his No. 48 Chevrolet after qualifying.

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