CHEVY MENCS AT DAYTONA MEDIA DAY: William Byron Press Conf. Transcript

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
DAYTONA 500 MEDIA DAY
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
FEBRUARY 14, 2018

WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media and discussed his outlook for the 60th Daytona 500 and the season. Full transcript:

YOU DO A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF IRACING. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND IT TO YOUNG DRIVERS?

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“I don’t know if it’s a platform to develop drivers. I think it’s more of something that if you use it the right way it’s a tool that you can use to improve your skills or you can start out and see where you stand. For me, I had not been in a racing family and did not have any connection with this, so iRacing was my chance to really see if I had any ability to drive a car. I think from that standpoint it’s a great starter for understanding if you do have some ability and seeing if that can translate, but as far as taking the application of a guy that wins on there and put him in an actual car it would be nice to see but I don’t know if everyone would have that translation. I think it’s a great simulation program and I certainly use it during the week to improve my skills.”

MANY KIDS RUN GO-KARTS STARTING AT 5. BUT FOR THOSE THAT DON’T HAVE THOSE RESOURCES, WOULD THIS BE A GOOD THING TO USE?
“I don’t think it really matters when you start racing. That ability is kind of there or it’s not. A lot of it is natural and how much you’re willing to put into it is the next thing, and that kind of determines how far you get up the ladder. I don’t think that kids have to start racing at a really young age unless they just love to do it and they have the opportunity. I didn’t have that chance to race really young. For me, it started a lot later.”

HOW CHALLENGING WAS IT TO GO FROM THE SIMULATOR TO A REAL CAR?
“It was challenging because I really couldn’t really relate what came naturally and what I learned from the simulator. I couldn’t sit in the car say, ‘OK, I remember what I did on the sim.’ I just got in the car and things clicked. It’s hard for me to know if that was just there naturally or developed there. I think most of it was natural, and from there I used iRacing to learn the race craft and race against guys and just have a great time. I was on there watching other guys racing in NASCAR and I just wanted to see if I could stack up. It was just a great chance for me to learn from that.”

WHAT WAS THE CRAFT YOU LEARNED THE MOST?
“The biggest thing was learning the restarts and learning being side by side, setting up passes – the technical things that you figure out in a race car – I could figure out on the sim and put that in the race car. The natural me driving on the track by myself, that was natural. But the race craft from iRacing was something that I think helped me get farther ahead quicker.”

AS YOU GET READY FOR CUP, WHAT SEEMS DIFFERENT TO YOU?
“It’s very different. There are a lot of new things coming at me. It’s been exciting seeing all the things that you get to do at the Cup level that I didn’t get to be a part of before, and I notice the most is the fan interaction. They can be really encouraging because they know what the 24 car is up to in practice or we had a good qualifying effort. I think that part is something unique to the Cup series. Also, my lifestyle is different. I’m living at the track now. It’s so different from the hotel and traveling to the track every morning. I never had a coach before and now that’s something that is very convenient. I love being around the track and love being at the racetrack at night, seeing the lights and the fans.”

IS THAT SOMETHING THAT JEFF GORDON AND JIMMIE JOHNSON HELPED PREPARE YOU FOR?
“Yes, Jeff and Jimmie helped me in the early stages of this year understand what I would face as far as challenges, logistics on a race weekend and what I’m going to face from a team standpoint. It’s easy to looks at that stuff and say, ‘OK, I’m going to know how to manage that right away.’ But it takes a little time how to manage all those things at the racetrack and get the best out of yourself. Jimmie is a seven-time champion who has been great to learn from just how he manages his whole weekend and stays in great physical condition. I’m trying to learn those things on the fly.”

IS IT DIFFERENT NOT TO HAVE LITTLE E IN A CUP RACE?
“It is definitely different. I grew up going to races and watching him win races and going to the Daytona 500 and hear his name and hear all those cheers. You see some of the same things with Chase (Elliott) and his heritage. Hopefully, I can build on that as a younger guy and hopefully some of the 24 fans can take part in what we’re doing and be encouraged by it. When I was young, (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) was I the beginning of his career and trying to make a name for himself. I felt like he was going to be around for a long time. It’s just a weird feeling now at the end of his career and me coming into the sport, and I never imagined I would be in the sport period. I think it’s a dream come true for me.”

ARE YOU RECOGNIZED BY PEOPLE?
“That part has been different. I just kind of go out to eat around the racetrack and I went out to eat last night and I got stopped by four or five people in the restaurant, and that was so different knowing that people were knowing what we were doing. That’s a cool feeling and makes you realize that there are people knowing what we’re doing. It was cool to have that fan interaction.”

DO YOU FEEL ANY PRESSURE WHEN YOU HEAR YOU’RE THE NEXT JEFF GORDON?
“I think it’s something we can build on with the fan support and the drivers who came before us at Hendrick Motorsports is something that we can build on. It’s a golden opportunity to go out and show what we can do. We have great race cars and great fans support. We’re already way ahead of what most rookies have to go through, and I feel like that’s an advantage for me and the fans will be eager to see what we can do on the racetrack in the 24 car. The bond that I have with my crew chief will be the strongest thing that I can lean on, and as we continue to progress through the 500 and through the season we’re hopefully going to do just like we did at the Vegas test and use those first couple of races to feel the temperature, and then click off on all cylinders.”

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE SEASON?
“My goal is to go out there and be myself and hopefully gather some fans based on our results and what we can do on the racetrack. Hopefully, those fans can be excited about how we’re approaching each weekend. I’m just looking forward to being in that race car.”

DO YOU SEE THIS FIRST YEAR AS ANY KIND OF GRACE PERIOD?
“I don’t think so. I want to go out there and show what we can do as a team, but I think that comes more from my competitive instinct and drive that I have to win. If I didn’t start reaching my goals my first year I would be a little frustrated and I would work to be better. It will come from within and from our team. I think if you can start to build on top 10s; a lot of people say top 10s lead to top 5s to wins. With our team, that’s true. If I can build on some top 10s and develop that into some better results we can lead some races.”

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO HAVE A GUY IN THIS RACE 46 YEARS OLDER THAN YOU?
“It’s definitely different. I look at it as when I’m in the car I’m the same age as everyone. Nobody has an age on their car performance.”

ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT CONCUSSIONS?
“Not at all. I think Hendrick Motorsports does a great job with our physical fitness. If I can feel better in the race car that ‘s going to be the best thing for my health long term. I’m not looking at ‘what if?’ I’m looking at how I can be better in the race car.”

WHO’S BEEN MOST HELPFUL TO YOU COMING IN?
“I’ve talked to Jeff (Gordon) quite a bit. I lean also on Max Papis; he’s my personal coach, my personal advisor. I have quite a few people in my corner helping me through each situation. A lot of it is learning for myself. I need to go through thing myself and what I can learn from it. Each series is a new challenge and exponentially hard. You really lean on all the information you have growing up in racing, whether that’s Legends cars, Late Models, or most recently the Xfinity Series and the championship there. I think I lean on all those experiences.”

WHAT ARE YOU MAJORING IN SCHOOL?
“I’m majoring in business communication. I’m in my sophomore year, and I’m enjoying that right now. My classes give me a chance to get away from the track and gives me a chance to refresh.”

HAS THERE BEEN ANY GENERATION GAP (WHEN SPEAKING WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON)?
“I don’t think so. Jimmie, I’ve never seen anyone evolve as much as he does. He’s so in tune with himself and improves. He doesn’t really come as a veteran. He comes across as someone willing to learn all the time. It’s special to see someone like that, and I feel there’s no generational gap there.”

HOW WOULD YOUR FRIENDS DESCRIBE YOU?
“I would say I’m focused on what I want to do, and that’s racing and trying to succeed in the car. That’s been my focus my whole life. That’s what I want to do and succeed in. I guess my friends know that I’m driven to race and really succeed. That’s the person I am.”

YOU DON’T FEEL THE BURDEN OF DRIVING SUCH A HIGH-PROFILE CAR?
“Not really. For me, I’m focusing on what I can do in the car. I want to work on my team and what we can do together. That speed is already there and the team has had the ability to win a lot of races, so I’m going to lean on that as much as I can.”

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