All black, slick blue, the return of the flames. Yeah, Hendrick Motorsports will stand out come the 2018 Daytona 500 next February.
Though there are seven races left to contest the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, Hendrick Motorsports took Thursday (Oct. 5) to unveil their 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 racecars for the 2018 season, which will feature rookie William Byron in the No. 24, Chase Elliott in the No. 9, Alex Bowman in the No. 88 and Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48.
Among the changes was the No. 24, which dropped the blue and yellow colors from NAPA Auto Parts and Chase Elliott the last two seasons, is the return of the flame scheme. Jeff Gordon drove the fire-packed car in the early to mid-2000s, a time Byron remembers well as a fan.
“As a kid growing up, that’s what I was watching,” Byron said. “Now I get to race it and have my name on it which is something I still can’t believe. Jeff has been a huge help to me, he’s had a lot of support for me behind the scenes so far. I’m ready to make him proud. We’re paying respect to the history of HMS and Jeff.”
— Frontstretch (@Frontstretch) October 5, 2017
The driver who steps out of the No. 24 for next year is Chase Elliott, who may be leaving a historic number in the No. 24, but will return to family roots driving the No. 9 Chevrolet.
For Chase, he was happy to be apart of the design process with sponsor NAPA.
“I’ve gotten to see all their NAPA cars over the years change and I really was a pusher for that,” Elliott said. “With this number change and all this going on next year, I saw it as an opportunity to do something different and to knock the paint scheme out of the park. Also, to change the norm of the NAPA colors over the years.”
Father and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott drove the No. 9 to 38 of his 44 Cup wins. For him, he was proud to see son Chase take an interest in the new scheme, while keeping one eye on the young generation of NASCAR fans.
“It’s the next generation,” Bill said. “[Chase’s] point was… let’s bring it to another level. Let’s take to what the new generation would see in a car today. With his input and his ideas, what the younger generation wants, it’s a change.”
— NAPA Racing (@NAPARacing) October 5, 2017
Would it be even more special to see son Chase win in the No. 9? It’s a big yes from the 1988 champion.
“To win period would be great,” Bill said. “But to carry on his legacy, not only mine, but his. I mean, that’s all he’s ever driven was the No. 9 up until he drove the No. 24 two years ago. He’s pretty fond of the No. 9, he likes it a lot.”
Another driver who has a say in the design of their Camaro ZL1 for 2018 was Alex Bowman, who replaces Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 for next year.
Not only is Earnhardt the sport’s most popular man, but he’s also one of the biggest fans of his paint schemes. Bowman took both of those to heart in picking out the design with sponsor Nationwide.
“We had quite a few options and they all looked good,” Bowman said. “It was honestly hard to pick which direction we wanted to go. I was really thankful to have a hand in designing it, Dale always has in the past. Nationwide came to me and asked if I still wanted to participate in that. I said ‘absolutely’ because I’ve never been able to before.”
With so much change in one race team this offseason, the one car that will be the same is Jimmie Johnson, who returns to the No. 48 for the 17th straight year in 2018. However, it’s not all the same, as his classic blue Lowe’s scheme will revert to an all-black look with Lowe’s For Pros jumping onboard.
“It’s a big deal for us internally to have that Lowe’s For Pros base on our side,” Johnson said. “This is the primary car. Occasionally, we will have some paint-outs. But as I think through it, it’s usually the Kobalt car which is black. So, there’s a strong chance next year will be an all-black season for us.”
Despite the ages of his upcoming teammates for next year, Johnson feels he will fit right in with the youngsters.
“There’s no doubt there’s a gap,” Johnson said. “Alex [Bowman] pointed out there’s an 18-year difference between him and I… and he’s the next oldest guy [laughs]. It feels like I spent most of my career with the young gun title, now veteran, and now it’s senior citizen or something.
“I’m young at heart so I will fit in well. I know all three so well.”
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) October 5, 2017
About the author
Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.