Newton, Iowa — For now, William Byron’s future is in the NASCAR Xfinity series. If he keeps racing as he has, he’ll likely find himself in a Monster Cup ride soon enough.
Byron and the No. 9 JR Motorsports team, in partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, have dominated the Xfinity series the past six weeks.
The 19-year-old Byron has three wins and two more top-three finishes over his last six races. That success, combined with Kasey Kahne’s uncertain future in the No. 5 Cup car for Hendrick, heightened speculation that Byron could fill one of Hendrick’s four planned Cup spots in 2018.
But owner Rick Hendrick ended such talk last weekend, saying Byron would be back in the Xfinity series next season. On Saturday, Byron will race at Iowa Speedway, the site of his first series win last month.
“For me, the focus is on having fast race cars and doing the best we can each week. I’m not worried about what the future holds or when that time comes,” Byron said. “It’s about trying to go out there and compete for wins and prove myself at this level.”
Though still a teenager, it’s hardly surprising to see Byron — now second in the standings — push for a championship so quickly.
He made a name for himself in 2015, winning four of 14 races to take the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship. He moved up to the Camping World truck series last season and won seven times in 23 starts, shattering the mark for wins by a rookie.
The powerhouse team signed Byron to a multiyear contract in August that began with an Xfinity ride with JRM, much like Elliott’s arrangement in 2014.
“Winning races always helps your cause. But, for me, I feel like I definitely have a future at Hendrick,” Byron said. “They know what’s best for me, and I know I’m ready for anything.”
Target exits NASCAR
Target will leave NASCAR at the end of this season after 16 years with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Target had served as the primary sponsor for Cup driver Kyle Larson since his debut in 2013.
The 24-year-old Larson has emerged as one of the brightest young stars in NASCAR and has two wins and nine top-10 finishes this season.
His success wasn’t enough to keep Target interested in racing. Target says it will focus it sports sponsorship on soccer.