News Analysis: Hendrick Motorsports changes numbers

What happened: Chase Elliott will switch from No. 24 to his family’s famed No. 9 next season — along with the current No. 24 team — and the current No. 5 team with William Byron will instead become the No. 24 team. The No. 5 will not be used by Hendrick next season, though team owner Rick Hendrick said in a news release he would not rule out its return at some point in the future.

What it means: Bill Elliott used the No. 9 for a large part of his career and son Chase followed suit as he rose through the ranks, so this is a dream come true for the Elliott family. Meanwhile, Byron now will enter the Cup ranks with higher expectations on his shoulders. Even though it’s just a number switch — and Byron will be with what is now the No. 5 team, which has underperformed — the prospect of Byron in Jeff Gordon’s car number is significant. Longtime Elliott fans may be on board with the move, but newer Elliott fans — many of whom had warmed to the driver because he was Gordon’s successor in the 24 — may be wondering what to do now.

News value (scale of 1-10): Seven. Even though it’s just a number change, it’s a pretty big deal to have a new driver in the famous No. 24 car, see the No. 9 return with an Elliott driving it and watch the cursed No. 5 car disappear — all in one announcement.

Three questions: Will Gordon fans who started backing Elliott because he was in the No. 24 follow the driver to the No. 9, or will they root for Byron and stay with the number? Will the No. 9 team be able to shake whatever bad luck comes with being the “fourth” number at Hendrick (No. 5, No. 25)? What is our obsession with car numbers in NASCAR and why does it seem bigger than jersey numbers in other sports?

17 Replies to “News Analysis: Hendrick Motorsports changes numbers”

  1. The number thing is bigger in NASCAR because at the top level there is generally only one athlete driving that number, but in stick and ball sports, each team has players that use the same number across the given league.

  2. Since Gordon’s retirement, I have been rooting for all of the up & comers and underdogs. Elliott, Blaney, Larson, DiBenedetto, Cassill

    1. Chanda, Yes he will. If you have Twitter you can go to @TeamHendrick or to see the announcement.

  3. I’m a Dale Earnhardt Jr fan first, but I follow all the Hendrick teams. I like the move for Chase, and will stick with him in the 9. I hope he can make that number iconic again.

    I was always taking a “wait and see” approach on Byron, but I for one am glad to see the 5 go. I just hope Hendrick finally has 4 equivalent garages/teams, instead of the 5 being the red-headed stepchild of the organization.

  4. As a person who was a Jeff Gordon fan and then became an Elliot fan when he drove the 24- you will see me going to the 9. Chase has a ton of talent, and he is now my favorite driver not only because he can race, but we are very close in age. My draw to the 24 may be deep, but not deep enough to walk away from a driver who I believe can be the best of this era.

    1. Same here man. Gotta stick with Chase. Also really like Byron and will root for him and the 24 car to do well!

  5. Hmmm……. I kinda figured Hendrick might bring back the 25. That’s a number associated with Hendrick from the 80’s and 90’s, but it hasn’t seen much use since. I thought they might retire Dale Jr’s number and make a clean break for Alex, the fans, and all, but apparently they wanted to try to run on Jr’s coattails with the retaining of the 88. I can see that working both ways.

    Is the 5 really “cursed”, or is that just your reference to Kasey’s bad run in that number? I mean, they did win a championship with that number, so it can’t be all bad.

  6. Numbers used to be a major part of the driver’s brand before it was a thing. Now numbers are secondary to the sponsorships plastered all over the cars. Back then you recognized drivers by 3, 24, 43, 9, 8. Now it’s M&Ms, Lowes, Monster.

  7. They should have retired the 24 & 88 next year. And the 3 for that matter. Those are iconic because of the drivers. Every driver that becomes a superstar should do so with their own number. i. e. 18 etc.

    1. If I am not mistaken, the numbers are leased to teams by NASCAR. The #9 hasn’t been used for a couple of years now, so it was probably available and Hendrick got the lease for it.

  8. I hate this. As a lifelong Jeff fan, I did NOT stay with the 24. One of my sons did stay with the 24 from Jeff, to move to Chase. He sees the “iconic” 24. That’s what made him stay. He has no idea who Bill Elliot is. He’s just a kid. Not only was he upset I didn’t stay with the 24, but he spent all his allowance and birthday requests for “the twen fwor”.

    He’s going to be crushed. He’s a kid. He doesn’t know any better. This is a kid that had a collapse when Chase went out of the lead at Daytona with a few laps to go. A kid who worked his backside off to get a new hat for the night race – who was sad it wasn’t in the dang tent, so paid me the money to order it from the overpriced Fanatics.

    The separate issue is that Chase got his ride on his name, and Byron is being forced through and both have not demonstrated any consistency whatsoever. Chase is struggling fairly hard for being in top equipment, making mistakes all over the place, Byron hasn’t spent any more than one season in any given series across a ton of different car types. I love Byron – which is why I hate this move. He’s being thrown to the dogs, with no consistency, no chance to get used to racing anything, and full on exhausting, overly-stupid media schedules. He’s going to get burned out.

    And there are people complaining Xfinity has Cup drivers. Goobs who insist they’ve been a fan for years but have no idea Cup drivers used to drive for BOTH championships and fans LOVED it then, seeing if someone could pull off the double. Does it matter if the people in Xfinity are basically all daddy’s boys and grandboys instead of hot new talent? Gah, a bunch of rich kids, getting undeserved rides, crashing all over the place, taking out underfunded teams so that as long as they finish some of the races, they get into the Chase. They can still lead the points though, by golly, because half the field sucks too. Great way to drag competition down. I wonder why we had to go to 40 cars instead of 43, back when 50+ cars were showing up to qualify. Gee, I wonder. More of this and we’re going to need to cut the field to 38, then 35.

    You courted the corporate casuals who don’t care when it’s no longer “trendy”. You asked for it NASCAR. They had their little experience as you banned fans from the track areas drivers go, had their little photo op for their office wall when hot passes were taken from fans.

    This is a bad move for Hendrick and NASCAR, image-wise. Moving Chase looks like a money grab, since it wasn’t done at the start. I liken this to the “Bring Back the Stache” viral campaign they did, which fans flocked to buy up with Jeff going into the Chase, promising not to shave it until he was out of the Chase. Guess what? When the merch was all bought up, he shaved. What, two weeks later? They got their millions from selling it, he dumps the idea and it’s never mentioned again.

    And that’s before all the ridiculous amounts of “special” and “limited” thousands of thousands of runs of “special paint scheme” everywhere. Heck, a top driver has what… 10 different “special” paint schemes each year now? Who’s going to collect all that? I remember people outbidding in wars for the rare paint scheme from 10 years ago, the only change to normal, and only a few hundred or thousand made.

    Well, now there’s 2.5 million pieces of Chase “24” gear out there. And they are useless to boot. We’re expected to dump tens of millions more on the “new limited” Chase #9 gear.

    This comes after my lifeling hero who’s made nearly a billion bucks, Mr. Jeffy said “I wish I hadn’t signed so many autographs for fans” because they aren’t worth as much now and he wants to friggin’ sell them. This is what a man who made his money in a redneck, generally not high dollar fan sport, who used to cherish driver interaction. He’s mad he gave us some scribbles with a pen, because clearly his hundreds of millions aren’t enough for him and he wished he could squeeze us for more.

    This is getting ridiculous. Between this, the rule changes, the AWFUL experience at Daytona in which Daytona has ripped us off for over $1000 (including falsely overdrawing a deposit not once, not twice but THREE times which caused me to go negative in my bank account without so much as a sorry), admitted to it and essentially holding us hostage at the track anyway, and still refuses to help us (after spending about $8000 in 3 years on camping spots/tickets alone). What a great experience…

    I’ve been a NASCAR fan for 25 years. I was a 9yo little girl who thought Jeff was cute. I brought my husband to NASCAR, dragging him to the Brickyard as part of our honeymoon. Who indoctrinated my kids. I’m losing all hope. Change for the sake of change, it’s… stupid.

    And I’m sure the same people will say “see ya” or “why are you still here, go away then”. Maybe NASCAR doesn’t mean as much to them as it did to me. It was a huge part of my life, for months on end, every year. It was themed birthday parties and honeymoons and bonding with my kids. It was camping next to lovely people. It’s a part of me. It’s dying. I want to save it. But eh, I’m a little fish. NASCAR doesn’t care about little fish.

    And if enough people say “See ya”, NASCAR ceases to exist. The same people saying “then leave” now, will be complaining that all the races aren’t televised, because when the new deals come up, and fans aren’t in the stands, and fans aren’t watching on TV – no one will pay NASCAR to operate on their channels, or spend the kind of cash it takes to run tracks for NASCAR events.

    At least, that’s if you look at ANY graph of markers of success, NASCAR is down everywhere. Cash in, viewers, attendance, dollars spent for merch.

    I’m no Chicken Little, but the markers are clear… the sky is falling.

  9. Holy wall of text. Sorry, sort of let it all out there. lol Guess I’m just tired of throwing money down a well.

  10. I saw this coming.

    You could tell that when Chase got the call that he wanted the 9. It would have happened too since Hendrick was going to retire the 24 and Richard Petty said he’d let the 9 go. But…then Gordon said that he’d like to see it continue with Chase and the die was cast.

    But now Chase isn’t (as much of) a kid and probably felt more comfortable speaking up about what he wants. And now with the next “Boy Wonder” coming into Hendrick, the time is right.

    Too bad this couldn’t have been done from the beginning – now Chase and his fans have this odd 24 stage at the beginning of what I’m sure will be a long career with the 9 – but at least it’s fixed now.

    As for next year’s 24 paint scheme. As a lifelong Gordon fan, it better be yellow with a black drop shadow OR SO HELP ME GOD! The bastardized 24 that they’ve been running is terrible. You can’t even see then number when it’s white with no back drop against the paint scheme.

    Hendrick needs to stop worrying about stepping on Gordon’s legacy, and just run the number as it’s intended to look. Many other historic numbers – 2, 43 – have gotten the same treatment.

    Hell while we’re at it, Byron is sponsored by Axalta in Xfinity, maybe that sponsor can move from the 88 at some point and they can bring back the rainbow paint scheme. Considering how terrible most of the paint schemes look these days – especially from Hendrick – it would be nice to see a good one again.

    Make. Things. Right. Hendrick.

  11. I like the number change, but I’m not sure why everyone is saying that the 5 is the “4th car” or that it is cursed? It was just fine until Kasey Kahne began not running well. I think people forget that Terry Labonte had a heck of a run in that car, and even won two championships in it. Even after Labonte left, Kyle Busch had a lot of success in that car, and Mark Martin even gave it a couple wins late in his career. That car is not the “4th car” or cursed, if anything that honor would fall to the 88. Whatever has been giving Kasey Kahne trouble the past few seasons will hopefully be corrected with a change of scenery.

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