Today's announcement at Charlotte Motor Speedway saw yet another return of a famous number to competition, but one that brings a lot of emotion. It's the return of one of the most famous numbers NASCAR has seen, one that last saw action at the Sprint Cup level in 2001.
It's not the first time that a number has come back to competition, but it will come with a lot of mixed emotions.
Richard Petty Motorsports is not immune to that aspect, because it has gone through this type of situation not once, but twice, in it's rich history, dating back to the time of Petty Enterprises.
In 1992, Richard Petty announced that it would be his final season of driving. It would be the final season that he would drive the No. 43, the number he drove to all his 200 wins in his career. The following year, the car that Petty Enterprises put out in competition had the No. 44, but still ran the STP colors. It was odd in a way to see the STP brand on a different numbered car, but that didn't last very long.
One year later, Petty Enterprises brought the same sponsor back, but instead ran the No. 43, the same number that Petty drove for so many years.
Today, that number has been used in competition all but one race, that coming this year at Martinsville when Aric Almirola honored Maurice Petty by driving the No. 41. Fans still associate Petty with his famous number, but it did not stir up controversy or emotion when it was brought back. It was still his team, and still run out of his shop. Petty was always, and still is, connected to the No. 43.
It happened once again in 2001, because Evernham Motorsports would emerge as not only a new team, but also a new manufacturer. It would be the debut of Dodge for the first time in competition for over three decades.
When it was announced that Bill Elliott would join the Dodge team, they showed off a No. 94 car, the same number he was driving at the time. But at the announcement, Elliott himself said something was off. With that, he walked up, and peeled away the second number, revealing that for the first time since the late 1980s he was going to drive the No. 9, the same number he drove to a speed record at Talladega, the Winston Million and the 1988 championship.
He would compete for another three years in the number, and beginning in 2004, Kasey Kahne would enter Cup competition, taking over the No. 9 that Elliott drove.
That number has been part of NASCAR since then, and has seen four different drivers at the wheel. First was Elliott, then Kahne from 2004 through late 2010 till his termination at RPM, then Almirola took over for the remainder of the season until Marcos Ambrose took the wheel in 2011, and continues to be the driver since then.
Even now there's still famous numbers in competition. Ned Jarrett's No. 11 is still run, although now it's Denny Hamlin driving. A.J. Foyt drove the No. 14 in his Cup starts, and it lives on with Tony Stewart. Darrell Waltrip for years ran the No. 88 when sponsored by Gatorade, and now it's driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
RPM seems to have come full circle as two famous numbers from NASCAR's past are still being run out of their stable.
Sure, it may not be Elliott and Petty driving, but the current team is trying to write their own history in the famed numbers.