What makes you cheer for a certain driver? The number or the driver? Certain drivers for a number of years have made numbers famous along with their name. Us fans correlate numbers to past and current drivers determining who we root for. How do you root? 88 for example has been helmed by Buddy Baker, Darrell Waltrip, Ernie Irvan, Kevin Lepage, Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt Jr. What do all these names have in common? They all or currently drive the 88. They say time and again that no is bigger than the game. As a fan you have to admit that is true especially for a number. Like the Wood Brothers when it comes to the 21 that won at Pocono with Ryan Blaney and the Coke 600 winner with Austin Dillon did with the 3 car. I say drivers have about 70% being names to me as the what matters when it comes to what is more important. 30% for the car number because the number goes through Legacy periods. Buddy Baker compared to Kevin Lepage throughout its history has more stats with Baker from more accolades. Buddy's career has been a legacy, but his has been associated with number 28. Makes me think of Hardee's. Darrell also drove number 88, but I associate him more with the 17 when he drove for Hendrick. With Darrell it's a half and half thing as he spent a good number of years with both. I wasn't born in the generation so it's hard to judge. As the 88 was passed onto Dale Jarrett, that time signified the 88's glory during his career before being passed to Ricky Rudd for a short while. Then there was that time... a time before driving the 88 Dale Jr was told by owner of former D.E.I Teresa Earnhardt that Dale Jr had to decide if he was going to be an owner or a rockstar. Giving that Jr's fanbase will always see Dale as Rockstar, but also a terrific owner. He drove the famous number 8 Budweiser Chevy before leaving for Hendrick Motorsports to drive the 88. The key moment here is that our brains weren't ready nor tuned to even imagine him in another teams ride with a different number. The number is technically just a number then with its bags packed coming into work as if it was its first day on the job sitting on a bench fiddling with its phone until some employee slaps the papers in its face saying "You will be driven by Dale Jr" the number looks at the employee and replies "wait, hold on what?" Because at this point the whole subject is "what makes you cheer for a certain driver, the number or whatever the driver drives with the number on it". That 88 became more special than it did with the previous history of drivers it had with the long running popular driver and son of the sports most beloved legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. That number in the past nine years has had more attention with Jr's following than any other driver that commandeered it before. I looked at it funny thinking "but I'm used to the 8 number and 88 seems out of place". I got used to it of course as years went by because I like the driver in it. The driver makes the car what it is and not the number.
All photos used with permission by Nascar Media.