Days before the annual “throwback” weekend at Darlington Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports announced a throwback chapter for one of its drivers beginning in 2018.
Chase Elliott will switch car numbers from the No. 24 he’s used for the first two full seasons of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career and by Jeff Gordon to win four championships to the No. 9 employed by his father, Bill, to win 38 races and the 1988 series title.
William Byron, who will replace Kasey Kahne for the four-car team next season, will assume the No. 24 decals as the current crews are scheduled to remain with the cars.
Chase Elliott, 21, in his second full season at NASCAR’s highest level, won the 2014 Xfinity Series crown in a No. 9 Chevrolet fielded by Hendrick partner JR Motorsports, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I wasn’t sure I’d ever drive the 9 again,” Elliott said in a release.
“It’s a huge deal to my family and everyone back home (in Georgia), and I hope all of our fans will be pumped to see it back on the racetrack. There’s a legacy attached to that number, and I want to carry it on. I think it’s awesome that Hendrick Motorsports and NAPA wanted to do this. It’s impossible not to be excited.”
Elliott is currently seventh in the Cup standings. Coincidentally, Kahne succeeded Bill Elliott in the No. 9 Dodge at Evernham Motorsports in 2004.
“I know what the 9 means to Chase and his whole family,” team owner Rick Hendrick said in the release. “They’ve contributed so much to our sport, and I’m happy we can honor that history by bringing the number back. I think fans will really love seeing it out there.
"I told Chase we’d only do it if he promised to win a bunch of races, so I’m going to hold him to that."
Byron, 19, will make his Cup debut next season as teammates with Elliott, Alex Bowman, 24, who is replacing the retiring Earnhardt in the No. 88 Chevrolet, and defending and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, 41. Byron is currently in his first Xfinity season with JRM.
“Jeff and Jimmie are the drivers I’ve always watched most closely and tried to learn from,” Byron said in the release. “I didn’t think I could be more motivated, but when Mr. (Rick) Hendrick called to tell me (about driving the No. 24), it took things to another level. I have so much respect for all the people who have contributed to the success of the 24.
"I know it’s rare to have the chance to be part of something like this. I’m going to make the most of it.”
Hendrick has not made a number change for a full-time Cup car since introducing the No. 88, which harkened to Earnhardt Jr.’s family legacy, in 2008.
Brandt James, USA Today