Daydreaming about the No. 88, No. 24, the past and possible future
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s time away from the No. 88 has given us a chance to see what could be the future of NASCAR "if only a few things could line up just right."
I will preface this blog by reminding everyone that the line, "if only a few things could line up just right," has been said by most of us as we imagine our lives events from a daydream sort of perspective.
Obviously, everyone wants to see Dale Jr. healthy and back in the No. 88. This is simply a daydream scenario for if that doesn't happen or a few years down the road when Dale hangs up his helmet. That daydream perspective is exactly what this column is; fun but not nearly likely. That said, let me continue.
We all do know that Jeff Gordon, the now "retired" driver of the No. 24, will not be driving the No. 88 for a full season. So, let's imagine Dale is fully comfortable with coming back but decides it is better for him to enjoy life out of the car. Then what?
Alex Bowman performed well in his one race subbing for Dale but is unlikely to get the call for a full-time ride in the No. 88. Earlier in the year, speculation ran wild that Kevin Harvick would be going to Hendrick Motorsports to replace Kasey Kahne in the No. 5. Instead, he signed a big deal to stay with Stewart-Haas Racing, so scratch Kevin from Hendrick's future. Who next?
Well, Kyle Larson is having a strong season and already some in the media are saying he is performing beyond what Ganassi can or will provide.
So, maybe, Larson to the No. 88 might be a possibility, but I think that would be a "historical" mistake! Now, just a minute, wouldn't Kyle Larson to Hendrick Motorsports would be a great moment in NASCAR? But what I just said was "a historical mistake." Here is where the headline comes back into play within this blog.
Shuffling the deck would be Larson to HMS to fill their open seat, but NOT in the No. 88. Larson grew up a huge fan of Jeff Gordon and the No. 24. Like Gordon, Larson raced on dirt and in midgets as a youngster. Also like the four-time NASCAR champ, Larson is from northern California but raced plenty in the Midwest and has a great mid-American fan base. Currently in the No. 24 is Chase Elliott, whose father Bill famously raced against Dale Earnhardt Sr. while the boys became great friends. Like Dale Jr., Elliott has a rabid southern fan base.
At this point in our blog, you probably can figure out my daydream but please allow me to quickly finish. My "reset the numbers" would be relatively easy: swap Elliott's car number to 88, then Larson joins HMS and the No. 24.
This would then set NASCAR's future historically correct. Marketing and promoting types could then have perfect fitting "Throw Back Thursday" No. 88 and No. 24 promotions, fans of each driver's past could blend the new into their old memories and NASCAR may be able to have a genuine and renewed rivalry between the 88 and 24.
Just a daydream or … ???