When the 2018 season rolls around, the four-car team of Hendrick Motorsports will have a new look to it as the team will not only have two new drivers, but two of the team’s drivers will also have new numbers adorning the side of their Chevrolet Camaros.
On Tuesday night, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Chase Elliott, who currently drives the iconic No. 24 car, will now drive the No. 9 starting in 2018, putting the driver back behind the wheel of a number that is so closely intertwined with not only Elliott’s career, but that of his father, Bill Elliott.
The elder Elliott drove the No. 9 to the 1988 Cup Series championship and 38 wins throughout his Hall of Fame career, while Chase Elliott drove the number as he climbed the NASCAR ranks and scored a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in 2014 before graduating to the Cup Series and the No. 24 car, where he has been over the past two seasons.
“I wasn’t sure I’d ever drive the ‘9’ again,” said Chase Elliott. “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.”
“I know what the ‘9’ means to Chase and his whole family,” said team owner, Rick Hendrick. “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.”
With Elliott shifting over to the No. 9 for next season, William Byron, who has currently won three races in the Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports and will be moving up to the Cup Series as a rookie in 2018 will be taking over the No. 24 made famous by four-time series champion Jeff Gordon during his career. As noted by Hendrick Motorsports, Byron will be 20 when the 2018 Daytona 500 rolls around, making him the same age as Gordon when he started driving for the team back in 1992.
“Jeff and Jimmie (Johnson) are the drivers I’ve always watched most closely and tried to learn from,” said Byron. “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.”
“The ‘fit factor’ is something I’ve always believed in, and that’s what I see with William and our organization,” Hendrick added. “He reminds me a lot of Jeff at that age with regard to being a special talent and having a great head on his shoulders. But William is also his own person with his own career ahead of him. It’s going to be fun to watch him jump in the ‘24’ and show what he’s capable of.”
With both Elliott and Byron getting new numbers for 2018 and the No. 48 and No. 88 staying with Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman, the No. 5, which was the first car number fielded by Hendrick Motorsports when the team started back in 1984 will go by the wayside next season, joining the team’s other original number, the No. 25, on the sidelines.
“That was by far the hardest part (of the car number decisions),” Hendrick said. “The ‘5’ means so much to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and to a lot of our fans. The memories and the history will always be there, and I won’t rule out bringing it back some day. Never say never.”
While Elliott and Byron will have new car numbers for 2018, they will still be fielded by the same teams, as Elliott will retain crew chief Alan Gustafson and the current No. 24 team and Byron will inherit the current No. 5 team next season.
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) August 29, 2017