Rookie driver William Byron made his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut at the 2018 Daytona 500. The Hendrick motorsports driver took an unusual path to professional stock car racing, learning to drive with a wheel, pedals and an HP computer (with a 17-inch monitor). Byron excelled at iRacing, “the next step after a video game”, winning hundreds of simulated races before getting into a car. JohnWallStreet had the chance to speak with William about his iRacing background, the college degree he’s pursuing (while he races at the highest level) and the sponsors on his #24 Chevrolet.
JWS: How did the skills you obtained iRacing, translate to driving a race car?
Byron: I didn’t grow up in a racing family, so everything I did was on a computer and on iRacing; that’s the only way I knew how to drive. But, it translated almost perfectly to the real car, even the racetracks were identical (iRacing laser scans the tracks). I still use it for training during the week, to keep myself fresh and just test my skills out.
JWS: You’re currently enrolled at Liberty University, pursuing your undergraduate degree. How common are college degrees among drivers?
Byron: It’s not very common. I think there is one other guy that has a college degree in the Cup Series; but, I’ve always pursued my education. It’s important to me, it’s always been a critical part of my success and it’s something that I’ve always done. Of course, Liberty University is a sponsor and it’s important to them too.
JWS: Who are the sponsors on your car (in addition to Liberty University)?
Byron: Axalta Coating Systems (AXTA) has been with me for 2 years, they started with me last year in the Xfinity series; they’re a long-time sponsor of Hendrick Motorsports. UniFirst (UNF), the clothing company (uniforms & workwear), has a few races as well.
Howie Long-Short: AXTA reported FY17 sales increased 7% YOY (to $4.3 billion), driven by acquisition contribution; the company acquired Valspar’s industrial wood coating business in April ’17. The significant deployment of cash into M&A was among “key objectives” the company met in 2017, along with “substantial organic growth in the industrial coatings end-market, share gains in the Refinish end-market” and the launch of more than 250 new products. For 2018, the company projects net sales to grow 8-9% YOY; with EBITDA between $940-$980 million.
Fan Marino: Kevin Harvick won Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at Phoenix (ISM Raceway), his 3rd Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win in a row. Harvick is the first driver to accomplish that feat since 2015, when Kyle Busch did it; coincidentally, Busch finished 2nd on Sunday. Byron finished in 12th, the best finish of his young career.
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