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William Byron spotlights ‘different’ negotiation process with Hendrick

Jeff Burton, Marty Snider, and Nate Ryan review the resumes of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2023, including Matt Kenseth, Mike Helton, Kirk Shelmerdine, and Hershel McGriff.

William Byron inked a three-year contract extension Thursday that keeps him with Hendrick Motorsports through 2025. But this year’s negotiations proved slightly different for the Charlotte, North Carolina, native.

At 24 years old, Byron is having a breakout season with two wins and four top fives in the first 11 races of the year, already marking his first multi-win season while sitting third in points. This extension also marks the second of Byron’s Cup career, previously signing a two-year extension in September 2020 that carried him through 2022.

Now with Prosport Management representing him, Byron admitted this process wasn’t the same as the last time he did this, especially since he’s won three more races since signing his last deal.

“It was definitely different,” Byron said in a Thursday teleconference. “You know, this is kind of my first deal outside of my rookie contract, and I think that it’s good to kind of understand the economic sense of the sport a little bit more as I’ve gotten older and start to understand all the moving parts and what goes into it. So yeah, I thought it was educational and fair and definitely left me excited and looking forward to the years ahead.”

A new television contract is due to begin at the beginning of the 2025 season. With that contract is an expected impact on driver salary with teams eager to get a bigger slice of the financial pie than they receive now.

Byron said he was conscious of what future deals could look like as his negotiations progressed, noting he believes the sport is “thriving.”

“For somebody like me coming into the sport, I’m 24 years old, and hopefully have a long career ahead and want to see the sport do well,” Byron said. “I want to see fans be interested in what I’m doing. And I’ve got a lot of support from friends from high school and things like that that are watching the races (and) I didn’t get those messages a few years ago. So it’s cool to see that and yeah, hopefully, we continue to, as drivers, benefit from the success of the sport.”

With multiple wins already this season, Byron and second-year crew chief Rudy Fugle are showing immediate success in the Next Gen car. Byron, the 2017 Xfinity Series champion, said contract talks with Hendrick Motorsports began around the time his No. 24 team started to find success, earning their first win of the year at Atlanta on March 20. Whether this year’s on-track success impacted the terms of the contract was unclear, Byron said, but nobody has been disappointed yet.

“Definitely seems like both sides are happy,” Byron said. “I’m happy where I am. They’re happy with the progress that I’m making. And I feel like there’s that excitement for the future of what we’re going to do together. So yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”

Byron also noted that NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, the team’s vice chairman, has played a critical role in mentoring Byron on and off the track.

“He’s helped quite a bit,” Byron said. “I think he’s just made me comfortable in the Cup Series and made me understand what’s important. He’s really good at managing both sides of it. He’s good at managing the off-track and the on-track and knowing the importance of both, so I think that’s been what I’ve learned from him over the years and also little tidbits of information about racing, too.

“He’s been good for me, but also good for the race team and good for Rudy. He’ll come into our (No.) 24 room and he’ll talk about race tracks and what to expect and what he thinks is important. And that’s cool, because he’s won a lot of the places, so I think it’s great info.”

Byron is also one of four drivers under the age of 30 at Hendrick Motorsports. Alex Bowman (29) and Kyle Larson (29) are both signed through 2023 while Chase Elliott (26) is signed through 2027. Since the addition of Larson in 2021, the young core of drivers has seemed to work well together, producing 22 wins in 47 races (46.8%) and one championship.

“We have different experience levels from different race cars, but I think we all get along really well because we’re similar in age and we all like similar things,” Byron said. “I mean a few of us play golf, a few of us go race other things. And so we all have common interests.”

One of those interests is winning. All four have done that in 2022, but none more so than Byron.