Editor’s note: This continues the series of season reviews for select 2022 NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
See more: Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher, Daniel Suárez, Chase Briscoe, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson
Driver: William Byron
Car: No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Crew chief: Rudy Fugle
Final 2022 ranking: 6th
Key stats: 2 wins, 5 top fives, 11 top 10s, 1 pole, 746 laps led
How 2022 ended: After securing his fourth consecutive playoff berth, Byron turned in the best championship finish of his five-year career at the NASCAR Cup Series level with a sixth-place position in the final standings. Importantly for the 25-year-old, he proved himself a legitimate favorite to have advanced to his first Championship 4 – just missing the opportunity. Byron earned six top-10 finishes in the 10 playoff races. But his seventh-place effort at Martinsville Speedway (where he won in the spring) to set that four-driver title group was not enough to ultimately earn a championship shot.
Best race: Ironically, it was the famous Martinsville short track where Byron and the Rudy Fugle-led No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team turned in their best single-day effort of the 2022 season. He led 212 of the 403 laps — including the final 83 — to earn the win in April, marking the first time Byron had ever led 200 laps in any NASCAR Cup Series race — the first truly “dominating” effort in his young career and he had to hold off eventual series champion Joey Logano for the trophy.
Stat to know: Despite starting the season with back-to-back DNFs at Daytona and Auto Club Speedway, Bryon managed to hit several career-high marks statistically. The springtime victories at Atlanta and Martinsville (only three weeks apart) marked the first time he’d scored multiple victories in the same NASCAR Cup Series season. His 746 laps out front (over 18 races) was also a personal high – over 300 more laps than he’d ever led in a single season. And most significantly, Byron’s career-best sixth-place finish in the championship showed he could contend alongside the sport’s stars and legitimately elevate his standing as a serious title contender.
Quotable: “Just have to put all the pieces together next year. But happy with where we are. Sixth in points this year and still continuing to climb forward. I’m young, but I’m experienced in what I’ve done in racing, and I think all that experience is starting to come to fruition. … I feel good about the direction we’re headed, and to be that close to the final four this year, was a big step.”
Looking ahead: In his second season reunited with his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship crew chief Fugle, Byron continued to raise his game. It’s easy to forget sometimes that although the precocious Byron has now competed in five full-time NASCAR Cup Series seasons, he is still only 25 years old. That “seasoning” is something Byron himself recognizes – and is encouraged about. Every year he has improved his championship ranking and elevated his statistical showings. He knows how to win a NASCAR championship, and his Hendrick Motorsports team is one of the most successful in the sport’s history, winning two of the last three season titles. The combination of experience and confidence that Byron has gained is evident in his 2022 work as a multi-race winner and his best-ever playoff effort. The progression certainly places him among the sport’s top tier and only raises expectations heading into 2023.