Elliott or Byron—who will it be?

DARLINGTON, SC - SEPTEMBER 01: William Byron, driver of the #9 Liberty University Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Sports Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway on September 1, 2017 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Will Chase Elliott score a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in his last 12 races in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet?

Or will William Byron be the first to do the honors when he moves into the No. 24 ride next year, with Elliott set to drive the No. 9—a number replete with Elliott family history.

When Elliott takes the green flag in Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (on NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET), it will mark the 1,439th time the No. 24 has run in competition at NASCAR’s highest level. The car number, driven for the first time at Daytona in 1950 with Dick Clothier behind the wheel, has been to Victory Lane 93 times—all with four-time champion Jeff Gordon in the seat.

So if Elliott happens to win before his tenure in the No. 24 ends, he’ll be the only driver other than Gordon to take a checkered flag with that number. And with Elliott on the playoff bubble, a victory in the next two races—before the playoff field is set—would be particularly serendipitous.

“Excited for the rest of this season,” Elliott said on Friday before opening practice at Darlington. “Definitely, as I have said throughout the week, too, you know I have an opportunity to add on to the success Jeff has had in this car, and I would like to do that before I don’t have that opportunity anymore.”

When Elliott switches to the No. 9 next year, he’ll be driving the same car number that carried his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, to 38 of his 44 career victories and a series championship in 1988. Chase Elliott had no second thoughts about making the switch.

“Any time you have a chance to kind of go back to where you came from in a sense with your number… that’s a number I’ve been tied to for a long time,” Elliott said. “When you are a kid, and you go and you are going to play soccer for the first time and you pick No. 9, I feel like from there you are always going to have that connection with it, or whatever.

“So, for me, no, it was pretty easy to want to take that opportunity. The only thought I have had is the No. 24, it really has become home for me over the past year and a half and I feel like I have kind of got to that point with it and felt at home. So that’s the only thing to it, but no, it was a no brainer for me to want to take that chance.”

And when he climbs into the No. 9 for the first time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Elliott will have the chance to add to another legacy—one that’s a lot more personal.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.