Can William Byron Steal Chase Elliott’s Throne as the HMS Golden Boy at the 2024 Daytona 500?

Published 02/11/2024, 2:07 PM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

William Byron stood up to the occasion in 2023. With a title-challenging run to the championship race and six wins en route, the No.24 driver easily steadied Hendrick Motorsports. The team was in dire straits with Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman out for months with severe injuries. William Byron took the chance to show his worth to the team. Considering his momentum, the 25-year-old could take a Daytona 500 trophy home next week.

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After a brief run in the top 7, Byron finished 10th at the Coliseum and is looking to begin the season with a bang. Last year, shortly after the Daytona 500, his season kick-started with wins at Phoenix and Las Vegas two weeks later. With Elliott recovering from a concerning slump in 2023 and a lackluster P22 finish in last week’s clash, February 17 could be William Byron’s claim to be Rick Hendrick‘s next superstar.

Daytona International Speedway is a sweet and sour track for William Byron

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The World Center of Racing holds great memories for Byron. The North Carolina youngster won his first race at the 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400 to cement a maiden playoff appearance. However, since then, he has not found much silverware at Daytona. In 12 starts, Byron has recorded one win, two top-5s, and three top-10s. Daytona has also been his second-worst track, with an average finish of 24.7.

One of the main reasons behind his poor statistics is terrible luck. William Byron couldn’t finish 7 of his 12 starts at Daytona. While that showcases a lack of execution for the #24 team, it also highlights that Byron has been receiving many wrecks, especially at an unforgiving track like Daytona. Even last year, he finished the Daytona 500 in P34. On the positive side, his stats are commendable in the five races he has finished.

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However, if 2023 was a glimpse of what’s next for William Byron, a Daytona 500 win is not far away. His talent has delivered on the promise to win races, and after having his best season last year, the #24 Chevrolet driver could be hungry for more. But on the same team remains the No.9 Chevrolet driver, Chase Elliott, who had a contrasting 2023.

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Can Chase Elliott return to his best form?

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Chase Elliott will want to forget the horrors of 2023. Following a tibia injury in the initial months, NASCAR’s most popular driver missed seven races and returned to competing at Martinsville. The lost races cost him not only valuable points in the long run but also momentum. Throughout the season, Elliott found a few podiums, which were distributed sparsely, but couldn’t land a win.

In 29 starts, the 28-year-old recorded five top-5s and 15 top-10s and led only 195 laps. However, thanks to the efforts of the drivers who replaced him in the #9 Chevrolet, Chase Elliott continued to compete for the owner’s championship. Recovering from the injury has been tough on the 2020 Cup Series champion, especially after his one-race suspension at Charlotte.

However, compared to William Byron, Chase Elliott has been more consistent at Daytona. While he hasn’t won at the track in 16 starts, his average finishing position of 20.9 is better than that of his teammate. Coming to his recent form at the venue, he has an average finish of 15.2 at Daytona with two top-5s and four top-10s in 6 starts.

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2024 will undoubtedly present a battle for the spotlight at Hendrick Motorsports. It remains to be seen if William Byron’s meteoric rise triumphs over Chase Elliott’s bid for redemption.

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Written by:

Ansuman Abhisek

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Ansuman Abhisek is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. Even before he made his way into the world of motorsports, he had already made a name for himself in the sports journalism field by working as a writer for a few media houses. Now, having covered multiple Cup races live, he has often been the first to report on-track incidents and also provide his readers with an in-depth analysis of the same.
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Edited by:

Rohan Karnad

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