Race Weekend Central

Byron’s Contract with JR Motorsports: Is It a Smart Move?

Last week, Rick Hendrick sat next to William Byron in the media center at Bristol to make a formal announcement of Byron’s ascension into the XFinity Series for 2017. Some eyebrows raised and there was a flurry of excitement in the Twittersphere.  What was all the excitement about?  Of course Byron should be moving up next year. He’s had a blistering rookie season in the Camping World Truck Series with 5 wins and an average finish of 8.4. He is almost guaranteed to win the championship.

What snagged everyone’s attention was the fact that Byron currently drives for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Liberty University No. 9 Toyota.  With his promotion, he’ll be piloting a Chevrolet for the direct competitor of Joe Gibbs Racing.  Byron had essentially defected from the most successful development program in NASCAR and opted for a future with the stable that has won 242 times in the Sprint Cup Series.  Does this move most benefit Byron or Hendrick?

There’s no doubt that Rick Hendrick is looking to the future of his Four Horsemen.  While vehement denials continue to be issued by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and HMS that the driver of the No. 88 might not return at all, more than a few people are wondering if his recent struggle with the concussion symptoms might herald an earlier retirement than recently anticipated.  Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson is no longer a spring chicken, either.  Yes, he may be seeking a seventh cup for his mantelpiece, but he’s no longer a driver in his 30’s. Time has a nasty way of pulling punches once you hit 40.

Then there’s Kasey Kahne–the driver of the “non” R&D No. 5.  The adorable one has a healthy 17 wins.  However, he has only cracked the top 10 in points three times in his twelve year Cup career.  He’s not considered the cream of the crop, but simply one of the few that regularly participate in the top 15.  At some point, sponsors are going to want a little more bang for their buck when they put their name on the fourth car in the Hendrick stable.

So, yes, Rick Hendrick needed to do something.  And in waltzed the clean cut kid with the shock of blonde hair and an easy smile. Like Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, Byron oozes an all-American kind of persona.  In short, he’s a perfect fit for the Hendrick orthodontically approved seat, besides the fact that he can actually drive.

On Byron’s side…well, his current boss doesn’t personally own an XFinity team.  In fact, Kyle Busch is often found piloting the Gibbs second tier machine.  When the Gibbs “development” program relies on placing their Cup drivers in XFinity cars constantly, that leaves that much less room for a young kid to sharpen their skills before reaching for a seat in Cup.

So, when that good looking kid hops into a JR Motorsports car next season, understand that his future has just about been green lighted for a fast track into a Cup ride.  And both Hendrick and Byron got the best deal available.

SOMETHING SHINY

In an attempt to add a viable bottom groove to Bristol Motor Speedway, track officials added a product they referred to as rosin to the inner lane.  The sticky substance certainly did the trick, as we were treated to two and three wide racing all weekend long.  I just wonder if we entered into the next era of track maintenance.  Treat the surface differently each race to generate new lanes and strategies among the teams.  Is that tampering or promoting?

 

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