Hendrick Motorsports made the shocking decision earlier this week to release Kasey Kahne from his contract, and they chose to replace him with a driver nearly half his age.
The team is replacing the 37-year-old Kahne with 19-year-old William Byron, who has had a meteoric rise through the NASCAR ranks.
Byron signed with JR Motorsports in 2014, and he raced in the K&R Pro Series East in 2015. In 2016, he began racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the Xfinity Series, and he’s had plenty of success in both series.
Byron, who is from Charlotte, North Carolina, has already won three Xfinity races in less than two seasons, and he won a rookie-record seven Truck Series races. He is second in the Xfinity Series standings for JR Motorsports.
When Byron signed a long term deal with Hendrick Motorsports last year, team owner Rick Hendrick said the young driver is a “special talent.”
“William is a special person and a special talent,” Hendrick said.
“On top of all his ability, he’s a terrific young man from a great family, and we think he has a very bright future with our organization.”
Byron joins Alex Bowman as the two new drivers for Hendrick Motorsports next season. Bowman is taking over for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The timing of the decision is a bit odd considering Kahne recently won his first race of the season and qualified for the playoffs, but he hasn’t exactly been the most consistent driver this year. Kahne is 19th in the points, and he wouldn’t have made the playoffs without his win at the Brickyard 400.
Byron will be the youngest NASCAR Cup Series driver next season, and he will be a part of the youth movement that is sweeping over the sport.