By Ben White
When Jimmie Johnson graduated from the Xfinity Series into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2001, the first order of business was to request a car number for the newly formed fourth Hendrick Motorsports team.
Most racers look for the smallest of advantages, including omens that have proved successful. By the time Johnson’s name was placed on the fleet of silver and blue Chevrolets, teammate Jeff Gordon had already collected three Cup championships in 1995, 1997 and 1998 with a fourth coming by season’s end. Gordon had driven the No. 24 Chevrolets to 52 of 93 total victories by the time Johnson’s car turned their first laps.
Previous to Johnson’s use, the number 48 had been to victory lane twice in NASCAR history when James Hylton used it on his Mercurys, Dodges and Chevrolets throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Over the past 16 seasons, Johnson has driven the number 48 to 80-career Cup victories and seven Cup championships, tying Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the prestigious honor.
“Back in 2001, when I signed with Hendrick Motorsports and they were starting the fourth team, the plan was to house the new team in the shop with the No. 24 of Jeff Gordon,” Johnson said. “It was designed for both teams to act as one, so the number 48 was derived from the 24 – just doubled.”