NASCAR: Number change at Hendrick Motorsports?

Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

With Jimmie Johnson returning to NASCAR for the 2023 Cup Series season, will Alex Bowman be sticking with the No. 48 at Hendrick Motorsports?

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson retired at the end of the 2020 season, his 19th as the full-time driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

But after spending the 2021 and 2022 seasons in IndyCar with Chip Ganassi Racing, 2021 as the driver of the No. 48 Honda in the road and street course races and 2022 as the full-time driver of the car, Johnson has decided to return to NASCAR.

He is set to return to the sport in a driver-owner role at Petty GMS Motorsports, though he is only slated to compete in select events throughout the 2023 season.

There had been talk about Johnson potentially getting the opportunity to run the No. 48 he used for all 686 Cup Series starts he made from 2001 to 2020.

After the 2020 season, Alex Bowman took over as the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet. He had driven the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports from 2018 to 2020 after replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. following his retirement after the 2017 season.

Hendrick Motorsports have a history of making number changes, dropping the No. 5 after the 2017 season to add the No. 9 for Chase Elliott, who had driven the No. 24 Chevrolet as Jeff Gordon’s replacement in 2016 and 2017. William Byron has driven that car since 2018.

Then in 2021, when Bowman was moved from the No. 88 Chevrolet to the No. 48 Chevrolet, the team dropped the No. 88 and brought back the No. 5 for Kyle Larson, who has driven the No. 5 Chevrolet ever since.

However, there are no changes planned for the No. 48 in 2023, meaning that Johnson will have to run a new number for the first time in his Cup Series career next year.

Petty GMS Motorports, a team formed in 2022 when Richard Petty Motorsports and GMS Racing merged, field two full-time entries, the No. 42 Chevrolet and the No. 43 Chevrolet. Noah Gragson is set to pilot the former as the replacement for Ty Dillon, and Erik Jones is set to return for a third year behind the wheel of the latter.

Prior to 2022, Richard Petty Motorsports had run just one car, the No. 43 Chevrolet, for several seasons, and the most recent number they had used other than No. 43 was No. 44, which was last used in 2016 when Brian Scott drove the No. 44 Ford full-time.

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GMS Racing had originally planned on running the No. 94 Chevrolet for Dillon in 2022 before the two teams merged, ultimately leading them to go with the No. 42 to honor the Petty family legacy.