Fans know drivers by their car numbers and in many cases only by their car number. For instance, I know that during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race here in Vegas I had a heck of a time remembering that Brad Keselowski was in the “blue deuce” and not Kurt Busch.
That was a tough transition for me because the No. 2 had been Kurt’s number for so long. Speaking of two, just two blogs ago I wrote about getting to know your Bullring drivers and in the course of conversations that followed I came to realize that many fans don’t understand the significance of the car numbers being run at the Bullring, so I thought I’d share some of that info here.
Superstition plays some part. Drivers may tell you they’re not superstitious, but they’re probably lying. James Wingard tells it like it is when asked why he runs the number 98 on his NASCAR Charger division car. “I bought the car from Travis Boyle, and he ran the number 98. The car ran well when he had it so I thought I’d better not screw it up by changing the number.” It makes perfect sense to a racer, the same way Mario Opipari is playing with his facial hair trying to get his car to run better… but I digress. Along the same vein as Wingard’s number 98, Vinny Raucci Jr. was looking for a Bandolero when he found the 911 car for sale. At that time, the 911 was in honor of the 9/11 victims, but since Vincent Jr.’s birthday is also on 9/11, he felt the car had actually found him and the number had to stay.
Speaking of Vinny, Vinny Sr. runs the number 69 on his NASCAR Charger car. Vinny Sr. was born in 1969, however the story doesn’t end there. His wife was also born in 69 and as a matter of fact, she was born on 6/9/69. But wait, there’s more! Her house number as a child was 69 and if you can believe Vinny Jr., she and Vinny Sr. also met on 6/9. Superstition or not, that’s fate right there! His only choice was to run the number 69 on his car as it’s obviously his lucky number.
Which brings up the birthday/anniversary selection process. Gerri Pearson drives the number 83 Bomber because she met her husband Wade on 8/3 and they were eventually married on 8/3. Scott Gafforini drives the number 38 NASCAR SuperLate because his Father’s birthday was on 3/8. As a side note, when Scott was but a wee lad he came home on his birthday and found a go-kart waiting for him in his back yard, and it already had the number 38 on it. So in addition to it being his Father’s birthday, the number 38 was also passed down to him.
And that, my friends, leads us into tradition. Bandolero driver Kayli Barker has quite possibly the oddest number on the Bullring, with the “34-plus-2” Bando. She wanted to run the number 34 because that was her father’s number (he chose it because it was Walter Payton’s number) and she also wanted to run the number 36 because that had been her sponsor’s car number. Hence, 34 plus 2, honoring them both. Robert Ewing’s number 16 actually has a longer lineage. In fact, he marks the third generation of Ewing to run the number 16. If you were around back in the days of the Silver Slipper dirt track you probably remember a Ewing driven number 16, which then passed to Robert’s uncle and now to the 16x NASCAR Super Late Model driven by Robert. Patrick O’Hanley’s number 60 was given to him by his Dad, but it actually honors one of his Dad’s heroes, Mark Martin, who ran the number 60 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
On the random side of things; Frank McCourt drives the h2o Legend car because he’s a plumber and clever like that. Brett Empey, also clever, drives the 54x Bomber. Being an officer of the law, Brett liked the whole “Car 54, Where Are You?” reference. The x on the end, however, is a result of being the second number 54 car to show up. It was cheaper to put the x on the car than to change the number, thus Sarge’s 54x. The “From Hell” Bomber racing team are all big fans of horror movies and such, thus Harold Sherard runs the 666 (and as a side note, will be attending a hearse convention with his hearse very shortly), his brother Jim the number 13 and Scott Castle the s810. The added benefit of these numbers, Harold points out, is that they also “creep out” the other drivers. It’s that whole superstition thing again. See that? Came full circle on the blog, just like we’ll be dong at the Bullring this Saturday night! Come on out and join us! That way, during the autograph session, you can ask your favorite driver “How did you pick your number?”