Let’s tip our hats to Eagle Scout William Byron, winner of the Daytona 500

A photo of Eagle Scout William Byron after winning the Daytona 500

In five Daytona 500 starts before last weekend, William Byron had never cracked the top 20.

But Scouting taught Byron all he needed to know about perseverance.

“I need to get to the end,” Byron said last week. “That’s the goal this year.”

Boy, did he ever accomplish that.

Byron, the class of 2015 Eagle Scout from Charlotte, N.C., won a thrilling Daytona 500, barely holding off teammate Alex Bowman as the race ended under caution.

“Just extremely blessed and thankful for all the opportunities,” Byron said after the race.

Byron had had some success at Daytona International Speedway, the site of not just the Daytona 500 but multiple races each year. He won a race there in 2020 and won the pole in the Daytona 500 qualifying in 2019.

But a top finish in the Daytona 500 itself had eluded him.

It’s a fact he was keenly aware of, and something he was aiming to change on Monday (the race was postponed by a day due to rain).

Raised in racing and Scouting

Byron started taking racing seriously when he was 13, the same time period in which he was also active in Troop 17 in Charlotte.

Photo courtesy of the Byron family

“When I’m on the racetrack, finishing the job is so important,” Byron told the BSA in a 2018 interview. “I think that being able to push through and not quit on what you’re doing is really important.

“I learned that from Scouting.”

Racing and Scouting complemented each other, he said.

“I enjoyed the leadership aspect of (Scouting), which was very similar to what I was doing in the racecar, leading 15 people in the race team,” Byron said.

For his Eagle Scout service project, he crafted bookshelves for a retirement home. He had to find time for most of his service hours after school or during the rare free weekend.

“Those things were tough to balance,” Byron said. “But I ultimately loved what I was doing in racing and wanted to accomplish what I had in school and Scouting.”

For his Eagle Scout service project, Byron constructed and installed bookshelves for a retirement home. Photo courtesy of the Byron family

Following in the footsteps of a legend

Byron drives his No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

Longtime NASCAR fans don’t need to be reminded that No. 24 was previously associated with NASCAR and Hendricks legend Jeff Gordon.

“He’s a bright young man,” Gordon said of Byron in 2017. “He’s obviously very talented; he’s sort of taken the sport by storm over the last couple of years. I’m proud that he’s going to be behind the wheel of the No. 24 car.”

Immediately after the race on Monday, Gordon — now the vice chairman of Hendrick — weaved through a crowd to congratulate Byron.

“The 24 is always going to be very, very special to me,” Gordon said. “But what I loved the most is seeing (Byron) make it his number and building that fan base.

“A win like this, my gosh, this is going to elevate that up to the next level and bring a whole lot more new fans to the sport and for William. That’s what I get excited and look forward to.”

Top photo by Getty Images

About Aaron Derr 438 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.