Dating back to his win at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Feb. 28, William Byron has been on a hot streak of top-10 finishes. The 23-year-old driver has now extended his consecutive top-10 finishes to nine races – the longest active streak in the NASCAR Cup Series. Byron’s nine total top-10s also are the most by any Cup driver this year. It took Byron 26 races in each of the last two seasons to secure nine top-10 finishes but he accomplished the same feat in only 11 events in 2021. In fact, Byron has the longest top-10 streak by a Hendrick Motorsports driver since Jimmie Johnson in 2010. He is also the youngest driver of all time to reach a nine-race top-10 streak in his Cup career.
ENCOURAGING ELEVEN: So far in the 2021 Cup Series season, Byron and the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE team have been a model of consistency. After 11 races, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has spent 2,330 laps running inside the top 10 – the second-most in the field behind only points leader Denny Hamlin (2,612). Of those top-10 laps, 962 have been inside the top five, which is the seventh-most of all drivers. He also has the third-best average running position of 9.09 so far in 2021.
PRO INVITATIONAL SERIES: ROUND 3: After its inception last year during the coronavirus pandemic, the iRacing NASCAR Pro Invitational Series resumes this Wednesday night for the third race of 10 in 2021 at the virtual Darlington Raceway. Picking up where he left off last season, Byron raced to the win in the first Pro Invitational Series event this year on March 24 at the virtual Bristol dirt track. In his eight total Pro Invitational Series starts, Byron leads the field with four victories and is the only driver to win consecutive races. The driver of the No. 24 has paced the field in seven of his eight starts, leading a total of 445 laps out of 1,058.
DARLINGTON DEETS: With five previous Cup Series starts at Darlington, Byron is looking to capitalize on his previously strong showings at Darlington Raceway this Sunday and find a little luck along the way. Despite running well early on in past races, Byron currently has a track-best finish of fifth, which came last September. Byron also has one NASCAR Xfinity Series start at the southern short track where he qualified sixth and raced to a fifth-place result, as well.
THE FUGLE FILES: Despite an extensive résumé at NASCAR’s national level, this Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway will bring some unknowns for crew chief Rudy Fugle. Making his first Cup Series start at the 1.366-mile track, Fugle has only three previous starts at Darlington – two in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and one in the Xfinity Series. Fugle’s most recent race at the South Carolina-based venue came last year in the Truck Series where his driver started 17th and finished fifth.
WELCOME, VALVOLINE: Last week, Valvoline expanded it’s partnership with Hendrick Motorsports by adding primary sponsorships to the No. 5 and No. 24 teams for a combined five races. The Valvoline colors will be on board Byron’s Chevy for this Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway and will return in the playoffs for his hometown race at the Charlotte Roval on Oct. 10. In conjunction with the announcement, Valvoline also unveiled its Darlington throwback scheme that Byron will pilot, which pays tribute to driver Neil Bonnett.
SOUTH CAROLINA STATE OF MIND: While Landon Walker, the fueler on the No. 24 team, hails from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, he also has significant ties to the southernmost Carolina state, having played football at Clemson University. The former college offensive tackle earned a scholarship to Clemson in 2007 after being named an All-American offensive lineman in his hometown at East Wilkes High School. While playing at Clemson, Walker recorded 3,131 snaps with 49 starts at tackle through four seasons. In 2011, Walker was named team captain, the same season Clemson went on to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. The college football standout was then recruited by Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 and earned a position as the starting fueler for the former No. 5 (now No. 24) team in 2015.