Silly Season: Will it include William Byron and Ryan Blaney?
Among the many tantalizing silly season prospects are what might happen to a pair of young drivers — William Byron and Ryan Blaney.
The 19-year-old Byron, who signed with Hendrick Motorsports in August 2016, has shown success in everything he’s raced. He won seven Truck races for Kyle Busch Motorsports last season and has won the past two Xfinity races for JR Motorsports.
It’s led to the question of if Byron could be driving a Cup car next year for Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is retiring after this season, creating a vacancy with the No. 88 team, and there have been questions about if Kasey Kahne will remain with the team even though he has another year left on his contract.
Asked Wednesday on “The Morning Drive” if he’s been approached or offered a Cup ride for next year, Byron said:
“I definitely would like to be in the Cup Series at some point, and I feel like I would be ready for that, but I think right now, really just focused on this season with (JR Motorsports) and trying to win a championship,’’ Byron told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“The distractions can be definitely detrimental to our race team. We’re just trying to continue to win races and put myself out there and get my name out there. I (have) all the confidence in everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and JRM to make those decisions.’’
What’s remarkable about Byron’s success is that he didn’t begin racing until he was 14 years old, driving a Legends car.
“He’s just special,’’ crew chief Dave Elenz said. “He gets it done under the biggest moments. He never cracks under any sort of pressure. The more difficult situation you put him in the better he does. That’s just a special individual. I don’t think we have a lot of them in the sport.’’
Blaney, 23, could be one who fits in that category. He scored his first career Cup victory last month at Pocono Raceway.
His future is uncertain as well. While he drives for the Wood Brothers, he is a Team Penske driver.
Car owner Roger Penske told USA Today last month that he’d like to have Blaney in the Team Penske fold as soon as possible. Asked if that could happen next year, Penske said “could be.’’
Where will Blaney race next year?
“You know, I don’t really think about that stuff,’’ Blaney told reporters Wednesday on a conference call. “Yeah, there’s been talks about it for years, really ever since I got with the Penske group, and things just haven’t really come together. I love the Wood Brothers and driving for them has been really special for me and my family. I couldn’t ask for a greater group of people.
“But the things I’m mostly concentrated on now is trying to win race 100 for the Wood Brothers (they’re at 99 now). That’s something I would really like to achieve, and I think we can do it. I believe we can really do that.
“I’m going to be happy wherever I end up, whether it’s the Wood Brothers or Penske or whatever. … I’m sure we’ll figure something out here soon, but as of right now, I’m just driving the 21 car this year and pretty happy to be where I’m at.’’