NASCAR: William Byron aiming for feat not achieved in 11 years

William Byron opened up the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season with a thrilling Daytona 500 victory.
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR / Jerry Markland/GettyImages

In his seventh Daytona 500 start, Hendrick Motorsports' William Byron delivered Rick Hendrick his first "Great American Race" win since 2014, doing so on the 40-year anniversary of the team's first NASCAR Cup Series start after the race was pushed back from Sunday to Monday due to rain.

Byron, who started in 18th place, led just four of the 200 laps around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida, but he guided his No. 24 Chevrolet to the front when it mattered most.

The 26-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina native was able to take the white flag before the race-ending caution flag flew, at which point he was clearly ahead of teammate Alex Bowman in the No. 48 Chevrolet.

Now he has a chance to do something that also hasn't been done by Hendrick Motorsports -- or anybody in NASCAR -- since 2013.

Last year, Byron clinched a spot in his first Championship 4 with a career-high and series-leading six wins, and even with a massive 60-point penalty during the regular season, he led all drivers in total points scored throughout the 36-race campaign.

Unsurprisingly, he entered the 2024 season as one of the favorites to win the championship.

No driver who has won the Daytona 500 has gone on to win the championship in the same season since Jimmie Johnson in 2013. That Daytona 500 win was Johnson's second, and the championship was his sixth.

Only twice from 2014 to 2023 did the Daytona 500 winner even go on to reach the Championship 4. Denny Hamlin pulled it off in both 2019 and 2020 after his second and third Daytona 500 victories.

Hamlin remains the sport's all-time winningest non-champion, and while Byron's 11 wins have him sitting 40 victories behind Hamlin, he is now next on the list among active drivers, a status he will be looking to change come November at Phoenix Raceway.

While Byron hasn't mathematically clinched a playoff spot, he is all but locked into his sixth consecutive postseason following his Daytona 500 win.

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The 2024 season is scheduled to continue this Sunday, February 25 with the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Fox is set to provide live coverage beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss it!