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‘Etched in history’: Former Clemson Tiger becomes a Daytona 500 champion

Andy Roberts // Provided
Landon Walker and team embrace driver William Byron after winning the Daytona 500.

Landon Walker was an offensive tackle for the Clemson Tigers from 2008 to 2011. On Feb. 19, he became a Daytona 500 champion.

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, won the race by mere inches after a crash behind him ended the race. However, the win extends much further than just the driver’s seat.

Contrary to popular belief, NASCAR is a team sport. While individual drivers pilot their cars around the high-banked tracks, they are not the only ones who must be at the top of their game. That is where people like Walker come into play.

It all starts at the racing shops, as engineers and fabricators perfect the cars to be as fast as possible. Once the race cars leave the shop doors, the rest is left in the hands of the driver and their pit crew.

Walker is a part of that pit crew, but it was not his initial idea of a career path. He had long dreamt of playing professional football, but after being unable to pass a physical with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012, he was forced to look elsewhere. That was when he joined Hendrick Motorsports as a fueler.

Having been on the team for over a decade, Walker has experienced several victories. However, there was one race that had eluded him throughout his career.

“One win that I have never gotten is the Daytona 500,” Walker told The Tiger last year. “That’s a big win that everybody wants, to put that ring on your finger. It’s one of the most coveted wins in our sport, kind of our Super Bowl.”

Finally, after nearly 12 years in the sport, Walker earned the most desired victory of his career.

“It is such an honor to be a part of winning the Daytona 500 with the 24 team,” he said.” So much goes into winning a race like that, from the guys back at the shop to everyone here at the race track this weekend.”

“We are so blessed to be etched in history with some of the greatest teams and drivers to ever do it. We will always remember this win and cherish the memories that came with it.”

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