Hendrick replacing Kahne with Byron
Driver, 19, owns three wins in first Xfinity season.
A racing fan who grew up in North Carolina, William Byron remembers peering into windows at Hendrick Motorsports.
He saw cars built for Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s biggest stars during Byron’s 19 years.
Soon, he will be on the opposite side of the glass.
Hendrick Motorsports announced Wednesday that Byron will replace Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 Chevrolet beginning in 2018, giving the teenager a top-tier Cup series ride for one of NASCAR’s most accomplished teams. Byron is scheduled to make his Cup debut at Daytona in February.
“It’s pretty cool to be in the other side of the picture,” Byron said.
Byron, who will turn 20 in November, is in his first season in the second-tier Xfinity series. He has three wins, including ones at Daytona and Indianapolis, and currently ranks second in points while driving for Hendrick-allied JR Motorsports. He also won seven times — a record for a rookie — in the Truck Series in 2016.
“You can’t teach speed and you can’t train talent,” Hendrick said. “And he has all those other qualities: Smart, dedicated, culture, work ethic. He’s got the whole package.”
Byron will join seven-time champion Johnson, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman in Hendrick’s four-car Cup lineup next season. Instead of the star-studded group that featured Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt a few years ago, the team will have three drivers under the age of 25 and Johnson, who will turn 42 next month.
“I don’t really have much of a concern,” said Hendrick, adding that Johnson will be a mentor while Gordon and Earnhardt will still have roles with the organization. “So they’ve got a lot of coaches. But the main thing is just not putting too much pressure on them and letting them go out and learn.
“If William continues to do what he’s done in every series he’s been in, he’ll adapt fine and he will learn. You might as well let him learn in what he’s going to be driving for years to come.”
Kahne and Hendrick agreed to part ways Monday, just weeks after Kahne earned a playoff spot by winning the Brickyard 400. Hendrick said his former driver remains under contract for another year and likely will land at an “alliance” program next season.
Indians: All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley (sprained right ankle) was put on the 10-day disabled list. Brantley, 30, is batting .299 with nine homers and 52 RBIs.
Braves: Rookie shortstop Johan Camargo was placed on the 10-day DL after suffering a bone bruise in his knee while jogging onto the field before Tuesday night’s game. Rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett.
Astros: All-Star outfielder George Springer was activated from the 10-day DL. Springer, batting .310 with 27 home runs and 66 RBIs, had been sidelined since July 24 with a left quad injury.
Royals: Three-time AllStar Alex Gordon was benched Tuesday. Gordon has struggled in the second year of a $72 million, fouryear contract, hitting just .197 with five homers and 34 RBIs in 100 games.
Rangers: Rookie infielder Tyler Smith was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock and right-hander Nick Martinez was sent down. Smith, 26, was claimed on waivers from Seattle on July 30.
Mariners: Nelson Cruz has 22 RBIs in 13 games against the A’s this season — a Seattle record against Oakland.
Athletics: Oakland has gone a franchise-record 154 consecutive games without a pitcher throwing a complete game. The last pitcher to go the distance for Oakland was Kendall Graveman on Aug. 19, 2016.
Marlins: A group led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Quogue Capital investment fund founder Wayne Rothbaum reportedly has halted its bid to buy the team.
Rockies: Closer Greg Holland leads the majors with 34 saves but has blown his last two chances, allowing six runs in 1⅔ innings. Tyler Chatwood threw a perfect 12th inning Wednesday for his second big league save.
Twins: Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario each homered twice in Tuesday’s win. The last time the Twins had multiple players hit multiple homers in one game was Aug. 3, 2011, when Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer each homered twice.
Noteworthy: Joe West, the majors’ senior umpire, was suspended for three days without pay for comments he made about Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre.
William Byron (left) will take Kasey Kahne’s spot in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevy next season.