NASCAR: Is 99 the magic number for William Byron?

William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson scored their first career NASCAR Cup Series wins in their 99th starts. Will the same be done by William Byron?

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron is currently in his third full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, but he is still winless. Two other drivers in the past four years sat in the same position.

Kyle Larson entered full-time Cup Series racing in 2014 where he won the Rookie of the Year Award. Before winning his first race at Michigan International Speedway in 2016, he had secured four second place finishes. Then in his 99th start, he outdueled Chase Elliott to score his first win.

Elliott began competing full-time in 2016. That year, he beat out Ryan Blaney to win the Rookie of the Year Award, despite going winless. It also took Elliott until his 99th start to score his first win at Watkins Glen International in his third season.

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Elliott scored eight second place finishes before winning for the first time. After that win, he went on a streak that got him two more wins in 2018 and an appearance in the Round of 8.

For Byron, a run like his teammate Elliott had in 2018 could be career-changing. He has recorded two second place finishes in his career, one at Daytona International Speedway and the other at Martinsville Speedway, both last year. His 99th start is scheduled to come at Darlington Raceway, the first race of the playoffs, on Sunday, September 6.

He currently sits in the 16th and final spot of the playoff standings. If he can hold that spot after the regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway, he will be a playoff driver competing for a championship going into Darlington Raceway.

It would not be unrealistic for Byron to score his first career win there. He ran up front and even won stage one in NASCAR’s return race at the track back on Sunday, May 17. He also sat on the pole there in 2019, so he knows how to get around the track “Too Tough To Tame”.

If Byron is in the playoffs and wins that race, he will automatically move on to the round of 12. It could be that one win that gets him going, just like Elliott in 2018.

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The final four races of the regular season are scheduled to take place at the Daytona International Speedway road course, Dover International Speedway (twice) and the Daytona International Speedway oval. Will Byron clinch a spot in the playoffs by winning one of those races and not even get to his 99th start as a winless driver?