Drivers won’t be the only new look at Hendrick Motorsports next season.
Two of the organization’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will sport new car numbers next season, both iconic numbers in the sport’s history.
Chase Elliott, who is in his second season driving the No. 24 Chevrolet, will drive the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro in 2018, reuniting with the number made famous by his Hall of Fame father, Bill Elliott.
Current Xfinity Series title contender William Byron, who will join the HMS Cup lineup as a rookie next season, will drive the No. 24 Chevrolet.
In 2018, Elliott and the No. 9 team will be made up of the current No. 24 team while Byron and the No. 24 team will be composed of the current No. 5 team.
“I wasn’t sure I’d ever drive the ‘9’ again,” said Elliott, who drove the No. 9 in the Xfinity Series. “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 race track.
“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.”
Byron will begin his 2018 rookie season at the same age Jeff Gordon was (20) when he made his Cup debut in 1992. Gordon won four Cup championships while driving the No. 24 for HMS.
“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,” Byron said. “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.”
Team owner Rick Hendrick said it was important to honor Elliott family’s history.
“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,” Hendrick said.
“The ‘fit factor’ is something I’ve always believed in, and that’s what I see with William and our organization. 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.”
The No. 9 will be the first new car number for an HMS full-time team since Dale Earnhardt Jr. debuted the No. 88 in 2008.
Following the 2017 season, HMS will withdraw its No. 5 car number from competition. It was the organization’s first car number and has run full-time since the team was founded in 1984.
“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.”