Friday, February 26, 2010

On the numerology of going from No. 88 to No. 22

It's funny how things seem to come full-circle in racing and in life. And it's funny that things that happened over 30 years ago can happen again.
In racing, car numbers often don't really seem to matter much unless of course you happen to be one of the superstar drivers that have become identified by that numeral on your door.

But for virtually every driver out there, they started their racing career with a number of choice. It could have been a number used by their father or grandfather, or it could be a number that just seemed to fit with their personality.

I know as a kid, whenever I dreamed of climbing aboard a racecar at Toledo Speedway, it always was a No. 16 car. That number is my birthday, so it just seemed to be a perfect fit. Plus it seems to be a pretty good choice as it's won a lot of races in the Camping World Truck Series and four championships with Ron Hornaday, Mike Bliss, and Travis Kvapil. Oh, and Greg Biffle seems to do pretty good with it in the Sprint Cup division too.

Way back in the 1970s, a family from up in my neck of the woods fielded a car in USAC and NASCAR stock car competition with the No. 88 on the door. Ron Keselowski didn't have much success in the NASCAR side of things, but he did win a 500-mile USAC race at Pocono with that number on the door. But the No. 88 was a desirable number, and someone eventually came to Keselowski and offered him a tidy sum to buy the right to use the number.

Eventually the No. 88 went to the DiGard team - first Donnie Allison, then Darrell Waltrip and then finally Bobby Allison - and the Keselowskis went short track racing with great success with the No. 29. Ron retired from the drivers seat and took over crew chief duties for his brother Bob. They climbed up from the weekly short tracks of the Midwest to an ARCA championship and eventually back to the NASCAR ranks in the Truck Series. Their No. 29 went to victory lane at Richmond in 1997 with Bob at the wheel and then again in 1998 with Dennis Setzer at Mesa Marin in 1998. After a sponsor-requested change to the No. 1, the No. 29 reappeared with Terry Cook behind the wheel in 2001. Cook scored four wins for them in 2002, and Bob's oldest son Brian won a track championship at Toledo with the No. 29 in 2003.

After 30+ years, a Keselowski again ran a No. 88 car when Brian's younger brother Brad was hired to drive the JR Motorsports Nationwide Series car in 2007. Brad had some great success with that number, winning a handful of races and contendending for a championship in both of the full-time seasons he used the number.

Now, it's time to go back in time to 1982. After ten successful years with the No. 88, the DiGard team had acquired a new sponsor. This was just before the era when a team would simply add another team, so their previous sponsor Gatorade was free to move to another team. The DiGard team had a good relationship with the Gatorade executives and when the company requested to take the No. 88 along with them to a new team, DiGard said goodbye to the number and chose another, this time going with the No. 22 to use on it's newly sponsored Miller High Life cars.

In the first season using the No. 22, Bobby Allison won six races and scored his only NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship.

I think you can see where I am going with this...

After departing JR Motorsports at the end of the 2009 season, Brad Keselowski joined Penske Racing for a double-duty season in 2010. He's driving the team's No. 12 car in the Cup Series and...the No. 22 car in the Nationwide Series.

Some people might not believe in the numerology, and I'm not quite sure I buy into it completely either. But Darrell Waltrip surely did when he won the Daytona 500 in his 17th try on February 17, 1989 while driving the No. 17 car. The numbers surely are aligned for Brad Keselowski to drive to his first Nationwide Series championship in 2010.


  1. Didn't Brad's NASCAR debut come in the #29 truck at Martinsville or Mansfield in 2004?

  2. Yes, Brad's NASCAR debut came behind the wheel of the family-owned No. 29 truck back in 2004. I do believe it was Martinsville, where he got tangled up in turn one early on. He had a solid run later on at Mansfield, getting a top-15 finish.