William Byron Can’t Get No Respect, Still

William Byron can’t get no respect. Still. Last week’s winner of the 66th Daytona 500, driving the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports, is not the odds-on favorite to win Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Not even close. In fact, Las Vegas currently gives Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott slightly better odds than Byron. Is it because he got his start playing video games? Using a racing simulator rather than being on a (real) track at age 5?

And don’t forget, William Byron won at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2022 and 2023.

Winner of the 2024 Daytona 500, and Many More

William Byron won the 2024 Daytona 500, the most prestigious — and meaningful — race on the NASCAR schedule. But he’s got many more wins to back up his credentials. Byron got his first NASCAR Cup Series win in 2020, also at Daytona. He took home six wins in 2023 — the most of any driver in the regular season. And super speedways, like Daytona — and Atlanta — are where Byron shines.

The issue of respect for what William Byron has already achieved may be due to his non-traditional path into NASCAR. He did not start on go-karts as a boy. His family is not from a racing background. He attended a wealthy, private school growing up. As Byron told Fox Sports, he got his “unique” start in NASCAR through iRacing — an online racing simulator.

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Byron’s passion for online racing, and how it benefitted his actual racing career is obvious. He founded William Byron eSports in 2019, before his first NASCAR Cup Series win, to “provide a platform to mentor and give back to other aspiring young drivers.”

2024 Could Be A Championship Year for William Byron

William Byron won six NASCAR Cup Series races in 2023, including the 300th win for Hendrick Motorsports. At the end of last year, Byron told NASCAR’s Zach Albert that “I hope I win more races (in 2024)  than I did this year. I hope I win 10.” This year’s Daytona 500 win puts him in great position to do just that.

William Byron won more regular season races in 2023 than his fellow drivers, but he did not win the NASCAR Cup Series championship. 2024 could by Byron’s year, no matter what the odds makers say.

But what, exactly, does the racing simulator say? Byron spent so many hours — and so many years — learning his racing craft from an online simulator. Odd, then, that a heavily promoted racing simulator seems to keep knocking Byron down. A “proven model” that CBS Sports claims has a “red-hot” track record, is pushing Ross Chastain to win Atlanta. The SportsLine racing simulator, according to CBS, simulates every race 10,000 times. Simulating the 2024 Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta, the simulator says Ross Chastain will be the race winner. Byron, will no doubt want to claim that is a buggy simulator.

Racing simulations helped make William Byron the racer he is today, but they don’t count for real NASCAR Cup wins, those are earned on track. But right now, not many are doing better at actually winning than William Byron. The disrespect will fade away.

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2024 could be a championship year for William Byron, and a win at this weekend’s Atlanta 400, could seal Byron’s status as one of this generation’s greatest.

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