The full and storied history of the No. 9 in NASCAR is no secret to its fans, but particularly to those in Dawson County and northeast Georgia.
So when the Hendrick Motorsports announcement came last week that Chase Elliott would move from the No. 24 to the number so intimately linked to his dad, NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott, the excitement and support were immediate.
“This was shocking,” said President of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame and local historian Gordon Pirkle.
“I am so happy he got No. 9. He wanted that number,” Pirkle said.
The number has been absent from the Cup Series for two years but dates back to 1949 when it made four appearances in the series known as “Strictly Stock.”
In 1950 driver Frank Luptow would finish 18th with it at the Daytona Beach Road Course.
Joe Weatherly drove the No. 9 for a short time in his early career for owner Charlie Schwam.
Roy Tyner who sometimes sported a mohawk drove with the number in the 60s and Pete Hamilton is the name most recognizable with it in the early 70s.
The debut of the number with its most recognizable driver in these parts and worldwide came in 1976 will Bill Elliott drove it with his family team.
“You won’t believe the people that think that Bill Elliott got the No. 9 from Highway 9,” Pirkle said. “There’s no way. It was state route 19 when Bill started. There wasn’t no 9 here. There was 9 East that ran up and down Lumpkin Campground Road, kind of a short cut from Dahlonega.”
He kept the number into the 80s when the Harry Melling tool company became a part of the team. Melling would later be the car owner as Bill Elliott’s success continued.
Bill Elliott’s dream season in 1985 saw the No. 9 Ford Thunderbird finish first at the Daytona 500 and accumulate a total of 11 wins on the year—a nearly unheard of feat.
During the 1988 season he drove to a NASCAR championship with six wins and garnered another win in 1991.
The No. 9 continued with Melling for partial seasons and then full-time runs through the mid 90s.
Cartoon Network added color to the number for part of the 1998 season and again in 1999 with Jerry Nadeau at the wheel.
In 2001, the No. 9 came back to the Elliott family along with Ray Evernham’s team that brought Dodge back to NASCAR. Bill Elliott was on the pole at Daytona in the No. 9.
Evernham would eventually give the number to Kasey Kahne in 2004 for his rookie season and he would continue to drive it for nearly seven seasons.
By 2010, the number was a part of Richard Petty’s team and Australian driver Marcos Ambrose drove it in 2011.
In 2015, Sam Hornish Jr. joined the Petty team and had three top-10 finishes that season.
While driving for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Chase Elliott drove the No. 9, winning the 2014 championship his rookie year.
In a video released by Chase Elliott on Twitter after the announcement on Aug. 29 he said, “This is something I am really, really excited about. This number is something that is really, really special to me and my family and a number that I have been running a long, long time. [It’s] a number I started racing go karts with obviously because of my dad running it over the years, and Kasey Kahne—I always looked up to him…This is a chance I couldn’t pass up.”
He will continue in the No. 24 through the end of the current season and make the change for 2018. William Byron will take over the No. 24 for Hendrick.
During the throwback weekend at Darlington, Chase Elliott announced via social media the soft launch of a web site that details the family's racing history: ElliottRacingHeritage.com.