Add William Byron to the list of drivers making history early in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Byron, who turned 23 in November, recorded his second career Cup Series victory last weekend at Homestead. The fourth-year driver topped the standings after two ugly finishes to start the season in Daytona, Fla.
As a member of the younger generation, Byron can partially credit his recent victory to sim racing.
William Byron just won at Homestead
William Byron and his multicolored Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 left Homestead, Fla., with a Cup Series victory.
Despite beginning the race in 31st, Byron led for 102 of the race’s 267 laps. Byron held off Tyler Riddick, who finished in second. The All-Star trio of Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-5.
Byron recorded his first career Cup Series victory at the Coke Zero Sugar 400 last August.
The impressive victory at Homestead came after Byron placed 26th in the season-opening Daytona 500 on February 14. Byron came in 33rd of 40 at the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 a week later.
Byron can partially credit his success to sim racing
William Byron is still only 23, and he had a far different upbringing and racing experience than older drivers.
Byron is young enough that he grew up with iRacing and sim racing instead of needing to adapt to it later. According to his official website, Byron totaled over 100 wins and 298 top-5 finishes on the iRacing simulator before he transitioned into a fully-offline career.
NASCAR has embraced virtual racing more in recent years, especially amid the global coronavirus pandemic. During last year’s hiatus, NASCAR kept fans entertained by having Cup Series drivers participate in the iRacing league.
In a 2020 interview with The Athletic, Byron explained why he is so optimistic about sim racing’s future in NASCAR.
“Virtual racing does not have the team aspect, the adrenaline aspect, the physical aspect — all the things you deal with in an actual race car that are difficult and challenges. But for me, it was the only thing I had. So if you’ve never driven anything, it’s definitely an avenue. It was for me. But there’s a level of adaptation it takes when you get into an actual race car that is different.”
Clearly, participating in sim racing has helped Byron’s professional career. If Byron turns into the next Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Stewart, he may want to dedicate his Hall of Fame speech to those who worked so hard on iRacing.
What is next for William Byron?
William Byron and the rest of the Cup Series drivers are finally leaving Florida.
After three straight weekends in the Sunshine State, NASCAR’s next Cup Series race is at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Nevada on Sunday, March 7. According to Vegas Insider, Byron had +2500 odds to win the Pennzoil 400 as of publication.
Denny Hamlin rounds out the top-5 at +900.
Betting odds courtesy of Vegas Insider as of March 2, 2021.