The Byron Bet

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I wish I had gone to a university that sponsored a NASCAR team.

After Jeff Gordon departed from NASCAR, the number 24 car was left open in the Rick Hendrick stable. While Chase Elliott was chosen to fill that seat immediately, everyone knew Chase would go on to pilot the 9, like his dad, so everyone wondered who would eventually take the wheel of the 24. When the dust settled and the ink dried, William Byron, at the age of 20, was going to be driving the iconic number 24 Chevrolet Camaro.

Now, after 2 years, he has no wins, only 22 top 10 finishes, and 5 poles. Sadly, he has not been all that successful even though he has Chad Knaus as his crew chief. Chad helped another driver at Hendrick, Jimmie Johnson, win seven championships. William has the best racing equipment money can buy with one of the best crew chiefs and yet he can’t seem to put it all together to get the car to victory lane.

William reminds me of the third Cars movie. He is very good at virtual racing and training on simulators. We saw during the hiatus that he is clearly good at iRacing. He won twice during the break for the pandemic. But, he isn’t quite like the Cars movie in regard to the digital talent translating to the real-life track. Maybe he should simply stick to virtual racing? NASCAR might be branching off in that direction someday sooner rather than later, and he could be a star that transitions from real life to virtual.

I don’t want to speak ill of him though. He might simply be in a situation like Joey Lagano was. Even though Joey had top tier equipment at JGR in his first few years, he certainly wasn’t showing the results of having it. Once he moved to Penske, he has won numerous times and even has a championship to his name. Could Byron still be getting his legs in the sport, and need to move to a different team to experience success? Only time will tell with that. but I do think that this might be the case. I think he still needs time and potentially a new team or manufacturer in order to start experiencing success. That is what I am betting on. The real question will be if he will ever leave Hendrick?

Lastly, but more of a side note. Byron attends Liberty University, that also sponsors him. I wonder if he pays tuition? I am also somewhat jealous because I went to Regent University, a rival to Liberty. Regent is not anywhere near Liberty in regard to campus size, student population, sports, or anything else, except maybe the televangelists that founded each of them, and they are both in Virginia. I would have loved to have gone to a school that sponsored a NASCAR team, even if it was a non-winning driver.

Digital NASCAR Heading for Disaster?

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NASCAR has recently shifted to online racing and it has been awesome. I am thankful for it and have been enjoying it greatly. I have always thought this should have been a bigger deal and it is interesting that it has taken a worldwide event to make it happen. However, there are some strange circumstances that need to be addressed if even the future of e-racing is to continue.

My thought about the sport was that all the current drivers would be racing virtually and continue the season online. NASCAR fantasy could continue, drivers points would be awarded, and at the end of the season, we would have a champion. Even if when we do get back to real-life racing,  maybe it can be used for weather canceled races. Just a thought, but continuing on. Just recently, some issues have evolved that are beginning to blur the lines between real and digital racing.

At first glance, NASCAR moving online is a great idea. However, not all the current active cup series drivers are racing virtually. There are some retired drivers and other series drivers in the mix as well. What is the reason for this? Is it just for fun? I do understand that many of the drivers are not as familiar with virtual racing as others, so maybe they don’t want to race online. Is it for entertainment and for fans to enjoy until we can get back to real racing? Well, the next paragraph is going to make you ask what truly is “real” racing.

Bubba Wallace apparently “rage quit” after wrecking out of the virtual Bristol race on April 5, 2020. Blue Emu, a longtime real-life sponsor of RPM, did not take kindly to that action and fired Bubba. While there are many factors that go into this on all sides, ego, attitude, and expectations, one can’t help but wonder…what now is the point of this virtual racing?

If you can lose your real-life sponsor in a digital event where non-cup drivers are competing, how is that not real? I watched just about the whole race. The coverage is vastly different than real races. I had no idea that Bubba had even “rage quit.” How is it different than any driver in real-life wrecking out of a race? This just set a dangerous precedence and NASCAR needs to scramble fast to figure out some rules to this. Clearly, nothing can be for fun anymore.