NASCAR: Before Jimmie Johnson, who drove the #48 car?

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Alex Bowman is set to pilot the #48 car this year for the first time. Before Jimmie Johnson, who was the last full-time driver of this car in the NASCAR Cup Series?

At the end of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson announced that the 2020 season would be his last.

His plans did not change, despite the fact that he did not quite get the farewell tour he would have anticipated due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions ultimately preventing grandstands from being full for the final 32 races of the 36-race season. In some cases, they were completely empty.

Johnson’s announcement gave Hendrick Motorsports a good year to determine who his successor would be, and they ultimately went with the guy who they wanted from the start: Kyle Larson.

Of course, there were a few twists and turns in Larson’s career that got him to this position, but now he is officially driving for Rick Hendrick’s team.

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However, he is slated to drive the #5 Chevrolet, not the #48 Chevrolet.

The number 5 hasn’t been used by the team since 2017 when Kasey Kahne used it. After the 2017 season, William Byron replaced Kahne, but he used the number 24, which had been used by Chase Elliott ever since he replaced four-time champion Jeff Gordon following the 2015 season. Elliott took the number 9 for 2018 and has used it ever since, winning the 2020 title with the same number his father Bill used to win the 1988 title.

This season, the number 5 was reintroduced after Alex Bowman was moved from the #88 Chevrolet to Johnson’s #48 Chevrolet, primarily due to its full-time primary sponsorship deal with Ally Financial. The number 88 will not be run this year.

So before Bowman takes over Johnson’s ride, let’s take a look back: who was the last driver, other than Johnson, to pilot the #48 car?

Save for Justin Allgaier, who filled in for Johnson at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last July after he tested positive for COVID-19, the #48 car hadn’t been driven by a driver other than Johnson since the 1993 season, when James Hylton drove the #48 Hylton Motorsports Pontiac in two races and Trevor Boys drove it in one. Both drivers tried but failed to qualify the car in 1994.

As far as full-time competition is concerned, Boys was the last driver to compete full-time behind the wheel of the #48 car before Johnson. He drove the #48 Hylton Motorsports Chevrolet for the full 1984 season and finished in 17th place in the championship standings with one top 10 finish in 30 races.

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Bowman is set to make his debut behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet in tonight’s Busch Clash at the Daytona International Speedway road course, which is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET. He is set to make his points-paying debut in the car on Sunday, February 14 to open up the 2021 season in the 63rd annual Daytona 500 at the track’s oval.