NASCAR’s biggest race of the year and kickoff to this season will be Sunday for the 61st running of the Daytona 500. And leading the pack of more than 40 of the best drivers in the sport will be an Eagle Scout.
William Byron, Eagle Scout class of 2015, of Charlotte, N.C., won the pole this past weekend, meaning he will start in the first position when the green flag waves at 2:30 p.m. EST.
Byron is entering in his second year on NASCAR’s top circuit, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He finished last season ranked No. 23 and was named the 2018 Rookie of the Year.
During the pole qualifying rounds for this year’s Daytona 500, Byron clocked a lap topping at 194.305 mph, just a fraction of a second faster than the next driver.
Sunday’s race will be the first time Byron will start a Cup Series race out in front. Historically, only nine drivers who led the Daytona 500 at the very beginning went on to win the race 200 laps later, the last being Dale Jarrett in 2000. But, the 21-year-old Byron is all about bucking trends.
Very few drivers can trace their racing careers to first being in front of a computer screen. When Byron was 13 — about the same time he got involved in Scouting — he started competing against online players through iRacing, a racing simulator. In two years of playing iRacing, Byron won more than 100 races, so he decided to try it for real. He was a natural, capturing 33 wins and a national championship on the U.S. Legends circuit when he began his career as a high school sophomore.
In 2016, he finished fifth overall in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series and claimed Rookie of the Year honors. The next year, he won the Xfinity Series championship before advancing to NASCAR’s Cup Series.
“I think that it’s progressed kind of how I thought it would, but there’s always more to learn more and more to accomplish,” Byron says.
Scouting and racing
One goal would be winning a Cup Series race. Last season, Byron had four top 10 finishes in races, the best coming mid-season at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania when he came in sixth place.
“To win, you’ve got to be able to close the deal,” Byron says. “I think that’s similar to what I did when I was a Scout.”
Byron balanced his time driving practically every weekend, playing football in high school and participating in Scouting. So, while he was busy, he stayed focused, squeezing in service hours after school or during the rare free weekend.
And yes, he has camped at a racetrack.
“I camped out at my home track in Charlotte,” he says. “It poured down rain the next day and rained out the Cup race, but it was fun.”
Watch for Byron in the No. 24 car during FOX’s broadcast of the big race, sometimes referred to as the “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing.”
If you want to learn more about Byron and his NASCAR career, pick up a copy of this month’s Boys’ Life or the Fall 2018 edition of Eagles’ Call magazine. You can also check out this video of our interview with him: