One year after winning the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship, William Byron now pilots one of the most successful rides in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. But, just how did Byron get to this point in his career? It all started with iRacing, a virtual sim racing platform.
Founded in 2004 by Dave Kaemmer and John Henry, iRacing has nearly 40,000 active subscribers and includes testimonials from drivers across a variety of types of motorsports, including NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps and 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power.
Byron first began using iRacing as a teenager and has advanced to NASCAR’s top ranks.
“I got started with iRacing when I was 13,” said the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie. “It was new to the NASCAR landscape and gave me a chance to have fun and learn how to drive. I’d never driven anything before, so iRacing gave me that entry into racing.”
In his first two iRacing seasons – 2011 and 2012 – he competed in 683 races, winning 104 (15 percent) with 203 top-fives.
Byron’s success on iRacing helped his family realize that the investment into racing was one that was worthwhile. And, it helped calm his mother’s fears that he wouldn’t get killed.
After watching his success on the platform, Byron’s family moved him into Legends racing, where he quickly had success. From there, doors opened up for Byron to get into the ranks of NASCAR.
Byron ran three NASCAR events in 2015 – a pair of K&N Pro Series East races and one Camping World Truck Series race. From there, success came quickly.
“iRacing really helped me get up to speed (on an actual track) and learn how to get more speed in the car,” Byron said. “It allowed others to see that I had the ability to drive. I was incredibly green for years, so it also gave me a huge confidence boost that I had the talent to succeed.”
In 2016, his lone full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Byron won seven events before moving to the Xfinity Series last season. In 2017, Byron captured four Xfinity Series checkered flags en route to the championship.
“iRacing really opened doors for me,” Byron said. “Now, it has helped open doors for other racers through the new youth league and iRacing initiatives. With iRacing, kids have a chance to get more publicity and experience behind the wheel. If they enjoy it, not only will the sport have a chance to find not only the next generation of drivers but fans as well.”
Although Byron is a recent success story, he believes that he won’t be the last. The eNASCAR Ignite Series, which kicked off in June, features participants ranging in age from 13-16 and will last for 12 weeks. The top 50 racers advance to the four-week playoffs, with 30 making it to the winner-take-all championship race at Martinsville Speedway.
“With iRacing, you have to work hard and understand how competitive it is,” mentioned Byron. “iRacing gave me the chance to drive and follow my dream. It led to me getting around the right people and getting to where I am now. iRacing is also huge for networking when it comes to meeting other racers and sponsorship.”
As eSports continue to make headway, Byron knows that iRacing can play a pivotal role in shaping NASCAR, not only to find new drivers, but also data and technology.
“It already has started to shape our sport,” Byron said. “We use simulators to race and collect data before heading to a racetrack. Eventually, we’ll be able to use data to find out who the best driver is based on scoring and technology.
“iRacing has taken off and really opened a lot of doors for different racers. It’s one of the most realistic sim racing platforms out there and will continue to get better and better as the graphics and motion improve. It really helped jumpstart my career.”
Will the next generation Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series superstar have a background that stems from extensive success on iRacing? Only time will tell.