With the addition of Kyle Larson to Hendrick Motorsports’ driver lineup for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, there is no more #88 Chevrolet.
As has been speculated for several weeks, Hendrick Motorsports confirmed that Kyle Larson is set to join the team as their fourth driver for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson set to retire.
The team had already confirmed that Alex Bowman, who has competed for the team since the 2018 season, is set to move to the #48 Ally Financial Chevrolet to replace Johnson after he retires, but Larson effectively becomes Johnson’s true “replacement” in terms of Rick Hendrick’s driver lineup.
But Bowman had driven the #88 Chevrolet. Larson, however, is set to pilot the #5 Chevrolet, which hasn’t been used since the 2017 season when Kasey Kahne drove it.
As a result, there will be no #88 Chevrolet in 2021. There hasn’t not been a #88 car in a Cup Series season since 1993.
Bowman replaced Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel of the #88 Chevrolet after Earnhardt retired following the 2017 season.
Before Earnhardt began using the number 88 in 2008, he used the number 8. In 2007, it was Ricky Rudd who used the number 88 driving for Yates Racing after Dale Jarrett spent 11 years using the number driving for the same team. The 1995 season, when Ernie Irvan used the number 88 for three races for the team, is the most recent season during which the number was not used full-time. In 1994, P.J. Jones used the number 88 for a race at Watkins Glen International driving for Jasper Motorsports.
So Larson is set to drive the #5 Chevrolet and Bowman is set to drive the #48 Chevrolet. William Byron is set to continue driving the #24 Chevrolet while Chase Elliott is set to continue driving the #9 Chevrolet.
The number 9 is the number which was introduced in the 2018 season after the number 5 was sidelined. Elliott moved from the #24 Chevrolet to the #9 Chevrolet while Byron, who was technically Kahne’s replacement, was placed behind the wheel of the #24 Chevrolet. A similar situation is now in order for 2021.