NASCAR: The big question that surrounded the ‘worst kept secret’

William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

William Byron was bound to re-sign with Hendrick Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. The real question was the length of the new deal.

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron entered the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season with two career wins to his name, one in each of the last two seasons.

He has already doubled that total this year, winning the season’s fifth race at Atlanta Motor Speedway as well as its eighth race at Martinsville Speedway.

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The driver of the #24 Chevrolet was the first driver to earn two wins this year. Through 11 races, he is one of only two drivers with multiple victories, making him one of only two drivers who have technically secured a playoff spot.

Interestingly, in the first eight seasons of the Championship 4 playoff format, the first driver to reach two wins has advanced to the winner-take-all finale all eight times.

For Byron, the 2022 season started as a contract year, something that wasn’t the case for any of his three teammates.

But following his hot start, it was practically inevitable that the 24-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina native and Rick Hendrick’s team would come to terms on a new deal to keep the former behind the wheel of the #24 Chevrolet for the foreseeable future.

This situation was similar to that of teammate Alex Bowman for the first part of the 2021 season. It was obvious that Bowman was going to re-sign with Hendrick Motorsports for the foreseeable future, and a new deal was finally announced in June. It was one of a number of “worst kept secrets” regarding the 2022 lineup last year.

The question for Byron wasn’t whether or not a deal would get done, and it really wasn’t necessarily when a deal would get done either, though that may have concerned some for the sole purpose of having peace of mind.

The question was how long Byron’s new deal would be for.

Bowman’s deal to keep him behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet runs through the 2023 season, which is also when Kyle Larson’s deal to drive the #5 Chevrolet is currently set to expire.

But Chase Elliott, for whom the 2022 season was also due to be a contract year, signed an extension with the team before the season began, and his new deal to continue driving the #9 Chevrolet runs through the 2027 season.

The five-year extension was not a surprise to those who remember Elliott signing a similar extension with the team back in June 2017.

So how many years would Byron’s new deal be for?

Hendrick Motorsports ultimately signed him to a three-year extension that keeps him in the #24 Chevrolet through the 2025 season.

The deal was always poised to be more than a one-year extension, an extension which would have tied him to the team for as long as Bowman and Larson, despite the fact that they both signed their new deals last season.

But would they consider signing him to a massive five-year deal like Elliott?

A case could be made for and against it. Byron has been arguably the best driver in the series amid the introduction of the Next Gen car, and it would be smart to lock him up for the long haul. Both sides would surely benefit.

But at the same time, Elliott entered the year having won multiple races for four straight seasons, something no other driver could say, and he is a champion of the sport.

Then again, when Elliott signed a massive extension in 2017, he was only in his second season with the team, and he was still more than a year away from his first win. Byron is in the midst of his third straight winning season and his fifth overall season with the team.

All in all, it made sense for Byron to sign with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2025 season. It’s not as long as Elliott’s deal, but it’s also longer than the current deals of Bowman and Larson, which will likely be further extended at some point next year.

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And we can’t neglect to mention that when it really comes down to it, whether the team signed him through 2023, 2025 or 2027, don’t be surprised to see Byron competing for the Chevrolet powerhouse for a much, much longer period of time.