Jimmie Johson in the #48 Lowes Chevy
Drivers in NASCAR jump form job to job these days, like they do in many other sports. There was a time when drivers drove for the same car owners for their whole career. Sometimes, the drivers owned the cars or were related to the owners, so there was not a lot of mobility. When top drivers changed cars, it was big news.
So there are drivers and numbers that go together. When you think Lee Petty, for example, the No. 42 automatically comes to mind because if Petty ever drove under a different number, it wasn't for long. When you think Ned Jarrett, you think of No. 11, although he did race other numbers.
One such driver/number combo that will be among the list of iconic numbers in the future is the No. 48 driven by Jimmie Johnson. Together, this combo is already in the NASCAR record books with five straight championships and is only three good finishes away from a sixth this season. No. 48 will be associated with Johnson from now on and vice versa.
Here are some other iconic driver/number combinations...
The famous No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Jr. might drive the No. 88 car now, but the No. 8 will always be associated with him. He won a Daytona 500 while driving for his father's company as well as a lot of other events. He built his fanbase and Budweiser sponsorship with that number.
Bobby Allison, father of Davey, driver of the famous No. 28.
The No. 28 car was driven by many top drivers over the years such as Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough and Ernie Irvan. But No. 28 will always be associated with Davey Allison. He was well on his way to super-stardom before his life and career were tragically cut short in a helicopter crash at the Talladega infield in 1993.
David Pearson at his Hall of Fame Induction
The No. 21 is the property of the famous Wood Brothers team. They have had a lot of success in their career with many great drivers. They won a Daytona 500 a couple of years ago with a young driver named Trevor Bayne. But, the No. 21 will always go with "the Silver Fox," David Pearson, winner of the 1976 Daytona 500.
Jeff Gordon in the No. 24
When you think Jeff Gordon, you think No. 24. It has been his number for his entire Hall of Fame career. Paint schemes have changed over the years, even sponsors have come and gone (other than DuPont), but the 24 has been consistently associated with Jeff Gordon.
Richard Petty in his famous hat and shades
Richard Petty and the No. 43 just go together. Many drivers have driven the car since "The King" retired, but none will ever make us forget who No. 43 really is. Other drivers in the car almost seem like blasphemy. If ever there was a number NASCAR should retire, it is the Mo. 43. Actually, there is one more...
Austin Dillon is now driving the black No. 3 in the Nationwide Series.
"The Intimidator" is well-known for his black No. 3 car. Even though the "Man in Black" started as the driver of the blue and yellow Wrangler Chevy, his career really took off when he joined Richard Childress and got his black Goodwrench Chevy. There was no other driver who didn't keep track of where that No. 3 was on the track.
Childress' grandson, Austin Dillon, is now driving the No. 3 in the Nationwide Series. While it is nice to see the black No. 3 on the track again, when he goes to Sprint Cup, that number might be more of a burden than he needs. The No. 3 should be retired. Many fans will not accept anyone else in the car.