JR Motorsports 2017 Championship Notes Package: William Byron

Driver: William Byron
Team: JR Motorsports
Crew Chief: Dave Elenz
Owner: Rick Hendrick (listed owner of No. 9 team), Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller
Primary Sponsors: Liberty University, Axalta
Team Sponsors: Armour Vienna Sausage 150 Years, BRANDT, Cessna

Charlotte, N.C., native William Byron, rookie driver of the No. 9 Liberty University/Axalta Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, clinched the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship after scoring a third-place finish in the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This marks Byron’s first national touring series championship and the second in four years for JR Motorsports, the company owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Additionally, it gives Byron the distinction of being the second-youngest series champion. Byron had to hold off fellow Championship 4 contenders Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric and Elliott Sadler in the final race to earn the title.

ETCHING HIS PLACE: Byron becomes the 28th driver to win a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in its 36th season.

SECOND TITLE FOR JRM: JR Motorsports’ second NXS championship in four years comes in its 12th season in the series. Chase Elliott brought home JRM’s initial NXS title in 2014. The company started competing full time in the NXS in 2006 (it entered one race in 2005), and has amassed 37 victories to date. Complementing Byron’s four victories in 2017 at Iowa Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway - the most among series regulars - teammate Justin Allgaier claimed wins at Phoenix Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway.

NASCAR’S RISING STAR: At the age of 19 years, 11 months and 20 days, Byron becomes the second-youngest driver to win a championship in any of NASCAR’s top-three national touring series. Chase Elliott holds the current record, earned during his 2014 NXS championship year with JRM at the ripe age of 18 years, 11 months and 18 days.

IN THE HISTORY BOOKS: Byron holds the top spot in the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, and should he win, he’d become only the second driver in any NASCAR national series to win the championship and rookie of the year in the same season. The award’s winner is not determined until the end of the season because its format factors off-track merit as well as on-track performance. Byron entered the Homestead race weekend with a 42-point lead in the ROY standings. Chase Elliott was the first to accomplish the feat during his JRM stint in 2014.

A FIRST FOR LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: Byron’s title also gives Liberty University its first championship in NXS competition. Based in Lynchburg, Va., Liberty is the largest university in the state, and the largest Christian university in the world. Liberty University has been a supporter of Byron, who is enrolled in online classes there, at every level of his racing career and was a previous partner with JRM during his stint with the Late Model team in 2014.

AXALTA PAINTS WINNERS AND CHAMPIONS: This marks the second championship for Axalta under the JRM umbrella, but its first as co-primary partner of Byron’s No. 9 team. Axalta, a leading global provider of liquid and powder coatings, has partnered with JR Motorsports since 2008 and supplied paint for the organization’s 37 NXS victories as well as its newly minted second championship.

CONQUERING THE PLAYOFFS: With veteran-like poise, Byron navigated all three rounds of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in order to capture his first championship. During the regular season, Byron’s high-water mark in points stood at second. But entering the playoffs on the strength three wins, Byron slid into the top seed for the Round of 12 and positioned himself in first place for the Round of 8. Heading into the cutoff race for the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway, Byron sat second in the point standings, just five points out of first. He claimed his fourth victory of the season at the 1-mile track, propelling him into the championship hunt heading into the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the top seed.

FRATERNITY OF CHAMPIONS: Byron is the newest addition to a growing list of notable alums that have graduated from JRM into successful Cup Series careers, including Chase Elliott, who won a championship and five races with the team, and Brad Keselowski, who tallied six victories over a two-year span with the organization. Prior to JRM’s entry into the Xfinity Series, Earnhardt Jr.’s first company, Chance 2, produced two championships with Martin Truex, Jr. To date, Byron is the only one of the group to win races for both JRM’s Late Model and NXS programs. He’ll pilot the No. 24 entry for Hendrick Motorsports in 2018 Cup Series competition.

ROOKIE RECORD: Byron’s four NXS wins in 2017 (Iowa Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway) supplanted a three-year record held by Chase Elliott, who earned three wins in his rookie season of 2014, for the most single-season wins by a JRM rookie.

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT: Byron’s claim to the 2017 NXS championship is even more remarkable given his late start in motorsports by industry standards. The 19-year-old has only been racing competitively since 2013, beginning at the age of 15.

TARHEEL TITLISTS: A native of Charlotte, N.C., Byron joins a cadre of five North Carolina natives as NASCAR Xfinity Series champions. He is the first native-born North Carolinian to win the title since Austin Dillon in 2013. Byron joins the list of NASCAR notables from the Tar Heel State, which includes:

• 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and two-time champion Jack Ingram (Asheville, N.C.), winner of 31 NXS races.
• Two-time NXS champion Sam Ard (Asheboro, N.C.), winner of 22 NXS races.
• Two-time NXS champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Kannapolis, N.C.), winner of 24 NXS races and 14-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver award winner.
• Brian Vickers (Thomasville, N.C.), the 2003 series champion.
• Dillon (Welcome, N.C.), the 2013 champion and current NASCAR Cup Series driver, winner of eight NXS races.
• Dale Earnhardt (Kannapolis, N.C.), seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and winner of 21 NXS races.

CHEERS TO DALE JR.: Byron’s championship marks the fourth for Earnhardt Jr. as a team owner and second in four years at JRM. His first company, Chance 2, won championships with driver Martin Truex Jr., in 2004 and 2005 in partnership with Dale Earnhardt Inc.

RING BLING: This marks the first championship for Dave Elenz as a crew chief, but he’s no stranger to championship successes. Elenz also scored a 2013 NASCAR Cup Series championship as lead engineer on the No. 48 team with Hendrick Motorsports. Elenz joined JR Motorsports in 2014, calling the shots for four victories with the company’s “All Star” car before being tabbed to lead Byron and the No. 9 team in 2017.

RECAPPING THE CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE: Byron’s season totals include four wins (Iowa Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway) 12 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes, two poles and an average finish of 10.4.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: With Byron clinching the top spot, and his JR Motorsports teammates Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier finishing second and third, respectively, the organization becomes the first to claim the top three spots in the championship standings. In 2014, JR Motorsports became the first team in 14 years to finish first and second in the Xfinity Series point standings. The Greg Pollex-owned PPC Racing did it in 2000 with drivers Jeff Green and Jason Keller.

FLEXING ITS COMPETITIVE MUSCLE: In 2017, JR Motorsports became the first organization to place three cars in the Championship 4 since the inception of the Playoff Round format in all three national series.

CONTINUING THE HENDRICK TRADITION: Byron becomes the sixth driver to win his first NASCAR championship with Rick Hendrick, co-owner of JR Motorsports, joining Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers, Jack Sprague and Chase Elliott as first-timers.

BOWTIE BRIGADE: Byron’s championship in the No. 9 Liberty University/Axalta Chevrolet marks the 19th time a Chevrolet driver has won the Xfinity Series championship. Former JRM driver Chase Elliott was the last to do so in 2014. The Bowtie Brand also clinched the Bill France Performance Cup in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year, giving the manufacturer the honors for the 18th time, more than any other manufacturer.

HENDRICK POWERS TITLES: This will be the 20th NASCAR championship and third Xfinity Series championship for Hendrick Motorsports engines, which supplies the motors for all JR Motorsports teams. Hendrick Motorsports engines won its first NXS championship in 2003 with Brian Vickers and Elliott’s 2014 title was powered by Hendrick Engines.

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