PSLogo Fastwax PFC

Commentary

5 Reasons Why William Byron is the Right Choice to Replace Kasey Kahne

By  | 
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Well, that didn’t take long.

Monday morning, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Kasey Kahne had been released from the final year of his contract as driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet and would be replaced next year with a driver to be named later.

By Monday evening, Adam Stern of the influential and well-respected Sports Business Journal reported that Kahne’s replacement would be William Byron.

Now, Byron moving to the No. 5 next year isn’t official until Hendrick Motorsports says it’s official, but he’d be a terrific replacement for Kahne.

Here are five reasons why:

Image

Byron is everything Hendrick Motorsports likes to project as its image: Clean-cut, polished and well-mannered, Byron might be just 19 years old, but he’s already well seasoned. He has made an overwhelming positive impression for his current sponsor, Liberty University, and will be a great sponsor representative at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level.

Timing

The timing of this move works on several levels: First, we’re in the midst of a generational change in NASCAR, with a host of veterans retiring and the strongest young talent base in recent memory. It’s also a time of transition at Hendrick Motorsports, with Jeff Gordon already retired, Dale Earnhardt Jr. about to be retired and Kasey Kahne departing.  

Familiarity

Byron knows the Hendrick Motorsports system. He’s driving this year for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports NASCAR XFINITY Series team, which works closely with the Hendrick organization. The Hendrick folks know Byron already and know how he operates and he knows how the team functions. It’s not like they’ll have to break in an outsider.

Economics

As Dale Earnhardt Jr. so eloquently explained it last weekend at Watkins Glen, the economics of NASCAR are changing drastically. No longer can established drivers command $8-$10 million per year because sponsorship dollars are way down. NASCAR contract deals are closely held secrets, but it would not be surprising if Byron’s contract is for substantially less money than the team was paying Kahne.

Winner

All of the aforementioned reasons are valid and important, but none of them would matter a whit if Byron wasn’t a stud behind the wheel. Without question, young Mr. Byron is a wheelman of the highest order.

The numbers don’t lie.

In 2015, Byron won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship with four victories, five top fives and 11 top 10s in 14 races.

Last year, Byron set a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series record by winning seven races as a rookie, along with 11 top fives and 16 top 10s in 23 races. An engine failure at Phoenix was the only thing that kept Byron from winning the Truck Series championship.

Byron has kept up the heat this year. As a rookie in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Byron has three victories, seven top fives and 14 top 10s in 20 races.  Just in the last eight XFINITY races, Byron has two victories, five top fives and eight top 10s. He’s ready.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with FOXSports.com, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.