NASCAR’s William Byron’s Dashboard of Faith

John FarrellBy John Farrell11 Minutes

Take a second to think about what you currently have on the dashboard of your car.

You most likely have nothing up there. If you do, it might be sticky residue from that one time your kid placed a sticker there and no matter how hard you scrubbed you just couldn’t remove it. Or maybe you have a stack of papers or mail that you’ve promised yourself you’ll go through when you get home.

What about a plaque with your favorite Bible verse? No?

That’s exactly what NASCAR driver William Byron has on his car’s dashboard. Not his daily car, the one he drives on the street. But his race car … the one he sometimes pilots at over 200 mph at race tracks like Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

More specifically, I’m talking about his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which is owned by Hendrick Motorsports and partially sponsored by Liberty University in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Attached to the dashboard of Byron’s race car is a conspicuous small metal plate that he sees every time he crawls through the window into the tight confines of the cockpit. On the plaque is the 23-year-old driver’s favorite verse:

God’s plan is exceedingly abundantly above anything we could imagine for ourselves. (Ephesians 3:20)

“It’s the verse I always keep in mind when I race,” Byron explained. “It talks about the power of God and what He can do. That’s more than what we can imagine for ourselves and what we can even think of and believe for ourselves.

“That’s my philosophy.”

Although the Charlotte, North Carolina, native was raised in a Christian household and regularly attended a local Presbyterian church where he was active with the youth group, it wasn’t until he started racing that his faith accelerated … so to speak.

“My faith took off for me and really took on a different meaning when I started to race Late Models,” Byron stated. “I was kind of on my own in trying to grow up and trying to be a part of something that a lot of people were doing.

“My career was so dependent on getting the right breaks and the right opportunities and I’ve been really fortunate to find something I love. I’m fortunate that I’ve had opportunities and I really attribute that to God’s plan for me and the way He mapped out what it is for me to do.

“I think that’s really when it took on a bigger meaning for me than just what I’ve grown up around and what my family had always taught me about my faith.”

As the beginning of the 2020 NASCAR season approaches and William prepares for his third campaign at stock car racing’s highest level – the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – it’s hard to fathom with all the success he’s already had that he’s only been competing on track for a short time.

In a time and age where most drivers who make it to NASCAR’s highest levels are groomed from an early age – often as young as five – on the ins and outs of racing in cars, whether it be go-karts, Legends, Late Models, or something else, Byron didn’t get behind the wheel of an actual car until he was fourteen. Now, that may seem young to most people since the driving age in most states is usually sixteen or seventeen; however, in NASCAR it’s extremely late.

Instead, Byron honed his driving skills on the NASCAR-licensed motorsports simulation platform known as iRacing. Yes, he learned to race online … and apparently his experience online has translated well to actual on-track competition.

“I started racing Legend cars and that eventually led to running Late Models, which is similar to a stock car. From there I continued to progress from the Late Model ranks to the NASCAR ranks.

“It’s worked out really well. I’ve been very fortunate to run a lot of different cars in a short amount of time.”

TaurusEmerald / William Byron’s No. 24 / CC BY-SA 4.0

In 2015, William’s first season in NASCAR, he competed fulltime in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, which is a regional NASCAR grassroots series. In his only season at that level, he won four of the fourteen races and the championship. The following season, William had made it to the bottom level of NASCAR’s three national series – the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series – where he won seven times and finished fifth in the final standings.

After one full season in the trucks, he climbed the NASCAR ladder one rung to the NASCAR Xfiinity Series, where he won the 2017 title on the strength of four wins. As was par for his career trajectory, Byron made his final jump in 2018 … to a ride in Hendrick Motorsports’ famed No. 24 Chevrolet in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Jeff Gordon had driven the No. 24 to four NASCAR premier series championship over twenty-four years before retiring at the end of the 2015 season with Chase Elliott taking over in the car for two years before Byron assumed his place at the steering wheel.

Throughout Byron’s career there has been one constant – Liberty University. The evangelical Christian university located in Lynchburg, Virginia, joined the young driver in his first year of racing on-track in 2015. In 22 races spread out over five series (CARS Super Late Model Tour [three races], NASCAR K&N Pro Series East [fourteen races], NASCAR K&N Pro Series West [two races], ARCA Menards Series [two races], NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series [one race]) that season, Liberty University sponsored his car for every race.

When he arrived in NASCAR’s premier series in 2018, Liberty University joined him as the primary sponsor on his No. 24 Chevrolet for fourteen of the thirty-six races that season. In 2019, the Jerry Falwell-founded university sponsored him for twelve races, splitting time with Axalta, UniFirst, and Hendrick Autoguard. Liberty will return this year and in 2021 for twelve races on the hood of Byron’s car.

“I started talking to [Liberty University] when I was still in high school and based on my background in NASCAR and that I had learned to race online there was a connection,” shared Byron, who is working toward a Business Communications degree at the college. “They have over 100,000 students in their online community.

“I also chose to pursue my college education online as I race,” Byron continued. “That’s what makes it a great connection and they’ve been with me for many years, which I’m really thankful for. They’ve been there every step of the way.”

On Sunday, February 16, 2020, the green flag dropped on the official start of the 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and the 62nd running of the Daytona 500. Among the forty drivers in the starting field was Byron, who made his third start in the biggest race on the NASCAR schedule. He started the race fourth and finished 40th after crashing on Lap 58. Through 11 races, he has three top-10 finishes, placing eighth at Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.

Last year, Byron started the Daytona 500  on the pole after winning the Gander RV Duel at Daytona #1. He ran in the lead for forty-four circuits of the Daytona 500 and finished 21st after wrecking and exiting the race with nine laps to go.

Byron’s sophomore season saw a marked improvement in results over his 2018 Rookie of the Year campaign – gathering five top-five finishes to zero the previous year, thirteen top-ten finishes to four, five poles to zero, 233 laps led to sixty-one, and an 11th-place finish in the final points standings compared to 23rd in 2018.

“In NASCAR, there’s a lot that I can’t control and I’ve accepted that. … I try to approach racing with a positive attitude,” replied Byron in response to a question about the role God plays in his career. “I know that if I do my best and leave the rest up to Him all I need is to just have faith.”

And if Byron ever forgets that God’s plans for him are so much greater than what he could ever imagine all he has to do is look at his favorite verse attached to the dashboard of his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

Top Photo Credit: Zach Catanzareti Photo / William Byron / CC BY 2.0