Tha Sports Junkies 101

William Byron to Drive the Hendrick 5 car in 2018

William Byron will race for Hendrick Motorsports in 2018 Leon Hammack via Flickr


Much speculation has been made in recent weeks over the future of Hendrick Motorsports. They announced on Wednesday that William Byron will replace Kasey Kahne in the 5 car next season.

Kasey Kahne’s future at Team Hendrick has been a looming question for much of this season. This gossip was only amplified after Kahne won the Brickyard 400 3 weeks ago.

Earlier this week, Hendrick Motorsports reported that Kahne’s contract would be terminated a year early.  Kahne currently has no plans to race next year. However, it is rumored that he will drive a Cup car for GMS Racing. GMS may start a new Cup team, forming a technical alliance with Hendrick.

Byron’s Rise to Racing Stardom

William Byron will be a Cup Series rookie next year in the 5 car. His primary sponsors will be Liberty University and Axalta. Byron, 19, is the current NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff points leader. In 2016, he drove the 9 truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports. As a Truck Series rookie, Byron won an astounding 7 races.

For 2017, Byron moved up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, driving the 9 car for Jr Motorsports. At Michigan in June, he finished second to Denny Hamlin in a photo finish. Over the next 5 races, he won 3 times. This included holding off Kyle Busch to win his most recent race at Indianapolis.

Byron’s quick ascension of the NASCAR developmental ladder is unprecedented and amazing. Becoming a Cup Series rookie at 19 years old is too early in the eyes of some. Current Cup Series rookie Erik Jones said “The preparation of a Cup Series race weekend is big. It is not something learned through Xfinity or Trucks. Your whole week is busy in Cup. You don’t get that experience until you’re in Cup. Weekend preparation, whether physically or mentally, is a big difference between Cup and Xfinity or Trucks.” Examples ranging from Casey Atwood to Joey Logano and Kyle Larson show the difficulties of racing in Cup at a young age.

The image of Hendrick Motorsports has radically changed over the past 2 seasons. The once dynamic combination of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Kasey Kahne is no more. Hendrick is absolutely building for the next generation. Their driver lineup will be Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, and rookie William Byron. With a majority of their drivers under the age of 25, expect Hendrick Motorsports to contend for race wins and championships for years to come.