On Sunday, May 21, NASCAR fans got to see Kevin Harvick wheel around the No. 29 one last time for the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
The number change came in a partnership between Harvick’s current team, Stewart-Haas Racing, and his former team, Richard Childress Racing, for whom Harvick drove the number following the untimely death of Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Harvick’s switch from his regular No. 4 is yet another case of a driver changing his number for the All-Star Race. Drivers usually do it in connection with a sponsor, and the All-Star Race is a good time to do it because it’s an exhibition race where fun is to be had by all.
What’s more fun than fooling your competitors (and even your crew) by running a different number than everyone’s used to?
Let’s take a look at the last few drivers who have changed their number while going for the million dollar payday.
Kyle Busch (2016) Switches From No. 18 to No. 75
In 2016, M&M’s, Kyle Busch’s sponsor at the time, was celebrating its 75th anniversary. Throughout the whole season, Busch ran an M&M’s paint scheme that featured retro M&M’s logos to help celebrate.
But at the All-Star Race that year, Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing and M&M’s took it a step further. It was announced that Busch would set aside the No. 18 — the same number he had used his entire JGR career — in favor of driving a completely different number: The No. 75 … in case anyone had forgotten how many years M&M’s was in existence.
Busch qualified second for the main event and rebounded from a speeding penalty to finish a respectable 10th, leading some laps in the process. That night, the “Candyman” was dedicated to honoring his sponsor.
What now makes this even more fitting for Busch is that he was recently named to the 75 Greatest Drivers list this year.
Jimmie Johnson (2011) Takes Mark Martin’s Number
This was an odd chain of events. At the time, Lowe’s credit card holders were entitled to a 5% discount at Lowe’s. To further promote it in 2011 (and also to perhaps celebrate his fifth straight championship), Jimmie Johnson stepped out of his No. 48 for the All-Star Race and into the No. 5.
If Johnson racing a number other than No. 48 wasn’t confusing enough, the No. 5 was already occupied by Mark Martin. So Martin ended up switching numbers too, going to the No. 25 for the race.
Johnson wrote a little No. 48 on the No. 5 on the driver’s side of the car and went out to qualify and finish 11th. Meanwhile, Martin, whose No. 25 represented a throwback to Tim Richmond, qualified an impressive fifth for the big show but crashed late and ended up finishing 19th.
A confusing night for Hendrick Motorsports spotters, I’m sure.
Honorable Mention: Hendrick Motorsports (1998) Honors NASCAR’s 50th Season
OK, admittedly, this car is not specific to the All-Star Race. But in 1998, to honor NASCAR’s 50th season, Hendrick Motorsports decided to drop the No. 25 for the entire season in favor of running the No. 50.
The car did compete in the Winston Open with Dallenbach behind the wheel, but unfortunately, Dallenbach was unable to race the car into the show and had to watch The Winston from the garage area.
Number changes have also happened for actual points races at times, which is an article for another time. But when it comes to the All-Star Race, sometimes part of the fun is running a number that absolutely no one is used to seeing you in.
And, hey, with Busch’s addition to the 75 Greatest Drivers, I’m surprised that the No. 75 hasn’t returned to the track this season, either with Busch or Hendrick Motorsports, the team that ran the No. 50. This year’s All-Star Race seemed like a great time to do it, especially with North Wilkesboro Speedway’s triumphant return on top of it. But Harvick’s No. 29 was just as acceptable in my book.
About the author
Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. He is an editor and co-authors Only Yesterday (Wednesdays) and Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer and dabbles in SRX coverage too. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing a master's degree. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training in his free time. He's a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.
You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.
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