Photos by Derrick Mahone
William Byron is the national points leader in the Young Lions division.
HAMPTON – Last September was the first time that William Byron drove a Legends car.
The closest he had come to driving a racing car was on Iracing.com, an online racing game. But the teenager's curiosity finally got the best of him.
After several hours with the computer game, Byron approached his parents about trying out racing. He climbed into a Legends car, and became hooked on the sport.
It’s not surprising since he lives in Charlotte, a hotbed for auto racing. And his hours on the computer have seemingly come in handy once he got onto the track.
“I was able to apply some of the things I learned on the computer to the real race,” he said.
In his first race, he qualified second in Anderson, S.C., but placed fourth overall.
Not bad for a novice.
“I had confidence that I would become consistent, and progress in the sport,” he said.
And he has, with the help of a good team that has been assembled to assist him at Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Thursday and the weekly races in Charlotte.
During practice and race days at Thursday Thunder, Doug Stevens serves as his crew chief. Stevens, who is considered a legend on the grassroots racing circuit, has been impressed at how quickly Byron has adjusted to the rigors of racing.
“What I’ve seen so far, it gives me the indication that he can be very good,” Stevens said during a recent practice run at AMS.
Byron's rapid climb in the sport has him leading the INEX National Point standings in the Young Lions division. Now that he is committed to pursuing his racing dream, Byron has given up high school football to concentrate full-time on racing.
He said he will still compete on his high school swim team during the winter months.
“I’m definitely proud of the way he has taken to the sport,” said his father, Bill Byron.
He has 13 wins under his belt in 30 starts.
“I think he is having a lot of fun,” Bill said. “He has met a lot of friends in the sport.”
Byron is five points behind good friend Payton Ryan in the points standing in the Young Lions division at Thursday Thunder.
In five starts, Byron has all top five finishes including a win in Week 3 of the 10-week summer racing series. He said that racing on both the Atlanta and Charlotte tracks has been an unbelievable experience.
“Racing on the big stage is awesome,” he said. “I want to race on NASCAR.”