From iRacing To Daytona 500 Victory: William Byron Wins NASCARS Crown Jewel Event

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William Byron started his racing career in iRacing – and now, the 26-year-old is a real-life Daytona 500 winner!

Image credit: NASCAR on X

Sim racers making the move to real racing is not a new concept anymore. James Baldwin did it, as did Jimmy Broadbent, Moritz Löhner and numerous others. William Byron did so at 15 years of age. The American had competed with great success in iRacing up until that point, and this success transfered to actual racing cars as well.

Several titles in lower-tier series later, Byron took the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series title – the series below the famous Cup Series. Moving up to the highest rung on the US stock car ladder in 2018, Byron races for Hendrick Motorsports since, complete with the legendary number 24 on his car that Jeff Gordon made famous in the 1990s and early 2000s.


His season results improved steadily. and in 2023, Byron finished third overall in the standings. At this point, the Charlotte native was a ten-time NASCAR Cup Series race winner already, having even driven to victory lane at Daytona before. Not for the 500, though – Byron won the 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400 on the famous high banks. His best Daytona 500 result ahead of the 2024 season: 21st in 2019.

The 2024 edition of the 500 would be different, however. Although patience was needed, as the race was rained out on the weekend and had to start on Monday instead, with Byron having qualified sixth.

William Byron: Taking The Lead At The Right Time​

An exciting, but relatively incident-free race then produced a spectacular finish. Byron got a slight bump by his teammate Alex Bowman, which caused him to spin around Brad Keselowski – in total, 18 cars were involved in “The Big One”. After a red flag period, four more laps were all that was left.

Byron took the restart next to Ross Chastain and managed to be just ahead of the latter starting the final lap – enough to secure the victory, as another full-course yellow was triggered by an incident involving Chastain, Austin Cindric and Corey LaJoie. As the yellow came out after the white flag signalling the final lap, no overtime was added, as NASCAR does otherwise – and Byron took the win.


William Byron, Daytona 500 Champion. “It sounds really damn good“, said the race winner after having climbed from his car. “We laid back and tried to save fuel for most of the race to get up there at the end and make some moves.” The strategy paid off, and Byron was overjoyed. “I’m just a kid [that went] from racing on computers [to] winning the Daytona 500. I can’t believe it!

With Byron’s father not being at the Speedway, having stayed home after falling ill, the freshly-crowned Daytona 500 winner added: “This is for him. We’ve been through so much, and we sat up in the grandstands here together and watched the races – this is so freaking cool!


William Byron, 2024 Daytona 500 winner – what do you think about the iRacer’s biggest NASCAR victory? Let us know on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

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Premium
watched it live with people from our community in the watch-along stream, was entertaining for sure and great to see Byron win!
 
OK, he played video games, and won a big race. Congratulations to him, but saying he "started his career in iracing" is really pushing it.

I could also say that JV was 1997 F1 champ after practicing in grand prix 2, if i use that logic...


Stop trying to hype this niche video game genre like if its some avenue to get into real racing for people who either dont have the means, or the connections. It isn't, and i don't care how many youtubers or kids with connections you parade to try to prove the opposite.
 
OK, he played video games, and won a big race. Congratulations to him, but saying he "started his career in iracing" is really pushing it.

I could also say that JV was 1997 F1 champ after practicing in grand prix 2, if i use that logic...


Stop trying to hype this niche video game genre like if its some avenue to get into real racing for people who either dont have the means, or the connections. It isn't, and i don't care how many youtubers or kids with connections you parade to try to prove the opposite.
Yes, but does it matter?
 
OK, he played video games, and won a big race. Congratulations to him, but saying he "started his career in iracing" is really pushing it.

I could also say that JV was 1997 F1 champ after practicing in grand prix 2, if i use that logic...


Stop trying to hype this niche video game genre like if its some avenue to get into real racing for people who either dont have the means, or the connections. It isn't, and i don't care how many youtubers or kids with connections you parade to try to prove the opposite.
I agree and disagree with you at the same time. It seems to me that there is no point in arguing that a good simulator gives basic skills in car behavior. Which in special cases can save a lot of time. But I think you're right that the days of casual drivers in motorsport are long gone.
 
OK, he played video games, and won a big race. Congratulations to him, but saying he "started his career in iracing" is really pushing it.

I could also say that JV was 1997 F1 champ after practicing in grand prix 2, if i use that logic...


Stop trying to hype this niche video game genre like if its some avenue to get into real racing for people who either dont have the means, or the connections. It isn't, and i don't care how many youtubers or kids with connections you parade to try to prove the opposite.
He did sim racing before jumping into a real race car.
I wouldn't say it was the start of his career.

As for means or connections...I have no idea, his parents seemed pretty well off from what I got from the Netflix special. You clearly need deep pockets or a connection some where along the lines to go with the talent and fitness needed.

It's not gonna work out for the majority of us gamers, but for the youngsters that are good enough to make it onto a top eSports Racing team.....it could potentially open up the door to a RL drive opportunity.
Many teams are using sim platforms to discover potential talent.

This is from his wikipedia page under beginnings.

1000001654.png
 
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He did sim racing before jumping into a real race car.
I wouldn't say it was the start of his career.

As for means or connections...I have no idea, his parents seemed pretty well off from what I got from the Netflix special. You clearly need deep pockets or a connection some where along the lines to go with the talent and fitness needed.

It's not gonna work out for the majority of us gamers, but for the youngsters that are good enough to make it onto a top eSports Racing team.....it could potentially open up the door to a RL drive opportunity.
Many teams are using sim platforms to discover potential talent.

This is from his wikipedia page under beginnings.

View attachment 731582
I am still waiting to see a proper, professional top level team grab a kid who only played video games, and stick him on a real car in a real series. Byron went racing with his dad money as a teenager, and progressed from there. The fact that he played iracing or whatever before is imaterial. That's the bottom line.

So no, real teams are not putting their money and results on the line into someone that never drove for real. All these guys had to prove themselves in the real thing before big teams made the plunge.
 
William Byron never played these games competitively. He got in racing because (as often is the case) his rich dad lived next to Jimmie Johnson the 7-time Chase champion.
Let's stop trying to overhype this ultra-niche hobby. The skills required to be good on a video game do not translate to what's required to make it to real life racing.

 
Premium
William Byron never played these games competitively. He got in racing because (as often is the case) his rich dad lived next to Jimmie Johnson the 7-time Chase champion.
Let's stop trying to overhype this ultra-niche hobby. The skills required to be good on a video game do not translate to what's required to make it to real life racing.

Yeah, my lad's a counter strike hotshot, but I can't see him being in the Army!
 

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