NEWTON, Iowa – It was barely a month ago that William Byron won his first NASCAR XFINITY Series race and now he returns to Iowa Speedway with two more victories and rumors that have him headed to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Quite a jump for a 19-year-old who has just one full season of NASCAR competition under his belt.
If that’s the case, of course. Silly season may be in full swing but Byron doesn’t seem to be paying attention.
The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports says he doesn’t know where 2018 will find him.
“No, but I’m focused on this year,” he said Friday at Iowa, site of Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “Just trying to run for a championship this year.
“I’ve got a great opportunity to run fulltime in this series and there’s still a lot to learn, a lot of good race cars to compete with.”
Byron trails JRM teammate Elliott Sadler in the points standings (665-625) but has three race wins and 17 playoff points, both tops in the series.
Twelve drivers will qualify for this year’s seven-race playoff, which begin Sept. 23 at Kentucky Speedway. Justin Allgaier, another JRM driver, is third in points and along with Ryan Reed (Roush Fenway Racing), the only other driver with a victory and assurance of advancing to the playoffs.
Byron wasted no time after collecting his first win here last month – a week later he was back in victory lane, this time at Daytona International Speedway. He’s the series’ most recent winner, having come away from Indianapolis Motor Speedway with victory No. 3 last week.
MENCS team owner Rick Hendrick, a partner in JRM, said last weekend at Indy that plans for his group’s No. 5 team, with driver Kasey Kahne, are not set for ’18. Speculation is that Byron could wind up in the entry.
Kahne won the Brickyard 400, ending a 102-race winless streak.
Byron, who won seven times in the Camping World Truck Series in ’16 while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, said his focus is on the No. 9 “and what we can do.” Next year will have to wait.
“Trying to get as many bonus points as we can for the playoffs … other than that just have fun and proud to be a part of JRM and HMS and everybody there,” he said.
“Good to see the sweep we got last week (with JRM/HMS); it was pretty cool, and hopefully we can build on that.”