It’s been widely rumored that William Byron would be the heir apparent to Kasey Kahne in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet for the last several months. With Kahne not holding the contract option to return to the team for 2018, he was left in the dark of those plans moving forward. Even after he won the Brickyard 400 last month, neither he nor team owner Rick Hendrick were very committed to one another for next season.
Kahne said he had heard the same rumors we have about his job scenario, but didn’t know his status other than that. Hendrick gave him no voice of confidence either, saying once during the Alex Bowman announcement press conference that morning, as well as in the post race winners media availability with Kahne that Sunday night, that the Washington native wouldn’t necessarily be back for 2018 that it all depends on funding.
So, despite speculation for most of this season that Byron would be in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for 2018, nothing was ever really discussed until last weekend.
Hendrick said it wasn’t until Byron’s second place result in a photo finish at Michigan in June, followed by wins Daytona and Indy in July, did Mr. H think Byron was ready to compete at the next level. Those are the three races where Hendrick said he changed his mind and knew that this 19 year old would be a star, comparing him to Jeff Gordon and Chase Elliott.
So, last Sunday night after the Cup race at Watkins Glen, Hendrick asked Byron a career altering question, “Would you like to drive in Cup?”
Today’s announcement was the obvious answer that Byron gave.
Kahne is out, Byron is in.
So, despite all those rumors, this deal wasn’t in the works until last weekend. Byron’s recent on track success really opened up Hendrick’s eyes for the future.