2020 Williambyron
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Analysis: High standards for William Byron’s third season

There’s no reason to not set the bar as high as possible for William Byron in 2020.

Besides, even if Byron were to win the NASCAR Cup Series championship in just his third full-time season, he wouldn’t be the first driver to pull off such a feat. He’d actually be, fittingly enough, the third to do so since the circuit’s modern era began in 1972.

RELATED: Byron’s 2019 season review | Other Year 3 breakouts

Jeff Gordon earned his first title in 1995 after two years of competition. Brad Keselowski then did the same in 2012. The only champion crowned in a quicker amount of time was Dale Earnhardt, finishing atop the 1980 standings in his second season.

Pull back here, though. Byron still needs his first win. These other three drivers had at least one victory – Keselowski had four, Gordon had two and Earnhardt had one – before their championship season.

In his 72 starts in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet so far, Byron has five top-five and 17 top-10 showings. His highlights consist of runner-up performances in 2019 at Daytona International Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. He averaged a 14.9 finish in 2019, much improved from the 22.1 average in 2018.

After not making the NASCAR Playoffs in his rookie season, Byron made it through to the Round of 12 as a sophomore, bumping his rankings from 23rd to 11th in the final standings.

RELATED: All of Byron’s national wins | Debate: Byron or Elliott in 2020?

Really, all of Byron’s marks were better from Year 1 to 2.

Category 2018 2019
Poles 0 5
Top fives 0 5
Top 10s 4 13
Laps Led 61 233
Avg. Start 17.1 12.4
Avg. Finish 22.1 14.9
Rank 23 11

RELATED: Byron through the years

Byron’s poles last season were impressive, too. He started from the No. 1 spot in three of the four crown-jewel events: Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500. His other two poles were at Pocono Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval.

Anyway, back to the lack of wins.

In Byron’s defense, there are multiple notable drivers who secured their first checkered flag in their third full season on track. Chase Elliott and Bobby Labonte both won three times, Rusty Wallace did twice, and Kyle Larson and Alan Kulwicki had one each. Elliott and Larson are still active. Labonte, Wallace and Kulwicki all went on to win at least one championship and eventually land in the Hall of Fame.

Those eventual champions aren’t the only titleholders winless in their first 72 starts – not necessarily full-time seasons. Bill Elliott, Cale Yarborough and Dale Jarrett also fall under that umbrella.

Driver Starts Wins Top 5s Top 10s Avg. Finish Titles
Byron 72 0 5 17 18.486 N/A
Elliott 72 0 4 25 18.278 1988
Yarborough 72 0 6 22 16.722 1976-78
Kulwicki 72 0 7 17 18.097 1992
Labonte 72 0 4 12 20.528 2000
Jarrett 72 0 0 5 24.167 1999

Sure, these comparisons could amount to absolutely nothing. But the fact Byron has continued to improve since he joined NASCAR’s premier league in 2018 cannot be disputed. So, that means there’s a good chance he could yet again have some form of newfound success in 2020.