Jimmie Johnson, Petty GMS Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson still doesn’t have a number for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, but a new possibility has emerged and might even be considered the favorite.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is set to return to the sport in 2023 after spending the last two seasons in IndyCar. He initially retired from NASCAR in 2020 following 19 seasons of full-time Cup Series competition.
Other than the fact that he is set to join Petty GMS Motorsports as both a part-time driver a part owner, not much has been confirmed about Johnson’s plans for 2023.
He is set to make his team debut in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, but that race is the only confirmed race on his schedule thus far.
A crew chief has not yet been confirmed for the 47-year-old El Cajon, California native, and neither has a car number.
Ever since it was announced that Johnson would be returning to the Cup Series in 2023, there has been quite a bit of speculation about what his car number might be, especially with No. 48, the only number he has ever used in his 686 career Cup Series starts thus far, already tied to Alex Bowman and Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson’s longtime Cup Series team.
Several options have been floated as possibilities, to the point where both Johnson and the team recently had some fun with the fans who were trying to guess which number might be used for his Chevrolet entry.
Another possibility has recently emerged, and with all things considered, it might just be the favorite at this point.
With Johnson, a seven-time champion, now driving for a team co-owned by Richard Petty, the sport’s first and one of only two other seven-time champions, why not go with No. 49, which is seven times seven?
Here is what Petty GMS Motorsports President Mike Beam recently had to say about the matter, according to Forbes.
“Once we made the announcement with Jimmie, people started connecting the dots. Seven times seven is 49. Holy crap, I would have never thought of that. We have two seven-time champions and if you multiply seven times seven, you get 49. That would be a perfect number for our team with Richard Petty and Jimmie Johnson.”
There are a few other reasons which make No. 49 a good choice. First of all, it is one of the two closest numbers to No. 48. The other, No. 47, is already taken by JTG Daugherty Racing for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s Chevrolet entry.
Secondly, the Petty family has largely been associated with numbers in the 40s, and while No. 49 doesn’t exactly have the ties that the team’s other two numbers, No. 42 and No. 43, do (or even that the available and former Richard Petty Motorsports number No. 44 does), it would provide an opportunity for the Petty legacy to continue to grow while Johnson adds to his own.
And finally, No. 49 is a reverse of the number (No. 94) that GMS Racing were initially going to run for Ty Dillon last year before they merged with Richard Petty Motorsports to form Petty GMS Motorsports and the No. 94 Chevrolet became the No. 42 Chevrolet.
All things considered, using the No. 49 for Johnson’s new entry would be a nod to all three of the team’s co-owners in three very unique ways.
While Beam’s quote in no way confirms the No. 49 for Johnson’s car, this is definitely the option that seems to make the most sense in the most ways. Then again, there is certainly a case to be made for quite a few other options out there, and there are many that still exist.