When Rick Hendrick popped the question to Chase Elliott if he'd take the number 9 to be his lawfully wedded racing wife, for better finishes or worse crashes , in sickness of engines and cherishing of checkered flags, the 21-year-old was immediately ready to tie the knot. 

"It's an opportunity I couldn't turn down, something that I guess with just the way the changes and all the things that are happening at Hendrick next year it was a good time to do it," explained Elliott. "Mr. Hendrick, I guess kind of had that in the back of his mind and was thinking about it.  I had always kind of lightheartedly joked about it over time and somewhere along the line he has been really listening to that.  I appreciated it for sure."

"I mean it was really a no brainer for me.  Anytime you have a chance to kind of go back to where you came from in a sense with your number that is a number I've been tied to for a long time.  When you are a kid and you go and you are going to play soccer for the first time and you pick number nine, I feel like from there you are always going to have that connection with it."

It was an easy bond for Chase to pick up given that his father "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" used it throughout what turned out to be a Hall of Fame career, with 44 wins and a Monster Energy Cup Series championship.  "Ever since I was little that was the number I always picked, the number I always went with, the number I raced from go-karts all the way through late models, even the Xfinity years.  I didn't have to pick that number, I didn't have to go with it, that was just kind of the number I had always liked."

"And really my passion and love for that number came from the (Ray) Evernham days (2001-2006) with my Dad and I was just old enough at that point to where I kind of started to understand and saw him racing.  I made a connection with him with that number in the early 2000's. I have no idea about the 80's and all the success when I made that connection. "

His dad was happy to see his son be able to run the "family" number as long as it was a win for everybody concerned. "We talked about it among us and I said it's whatever makes you happy," maintained Bill Elliott. "If you feel strongly about it, you've raced it most of your career and Mr. Hendrick says that's fine and everything works out good that's all that matters to me."

"Chase is in a great place with a great car owner. He's got a great future as far as I'm concerned that's all I could ever ask for."

Usually the race fans kick up a fuss when it comes to iconic numbers. Most wanted Richard Petty's 43 to be retired and we all know how the Dale Earnhardt fans felt when Richard Childress decided to bring back the number 3.  This time, though, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. "From everything I've seen, everybody is pretty fired up as much as I am.  I think the response as I have seen is it just fits.  That is kind of the way I have seen it in my mind too," Chase chirped. "It's something that fits me.  It fits the history of my family sure, but it also fits the history of what I've always kind of ran and where I came from over the years."

It will be absolutely natural to see an "Elliott" racing the number 9 in 2018. I do have, however, one big worry. I just hope in the heat of battle next season I don't mistakenly misspeak and bring Bill out of retirement.  That would be natural too even if the fans think I've temporarily lost my mind.


Having a number 9 on the side of a race car is also something special to my family. For many, many years my dad was the flagman at Claremont Speedway in Claremont, NH. Even after he left that job and we were living in Vermont, we took in the Saturday night races on a regular basis.

We had a friend Ronnie Bodge who drove in the Modified division and he needed sponsorship. So, my dad gave his team some money to put Garrow's Market on the number 9 car. It was around that time my parents were asked and agreed to have a big Vlasic Pickle sale in our grocery store. However, in attempting to order 60 cases somebody incorrectly added another "0" and we wound up with 600 instead.  All of sudden, we were in a real pickle.

We ran so many ads trying to get rid of all those pickles a radio DJ jokingly called my dad "Gherkin Garrow…the Pickle King" and it stuck.  People then began sending him gag gifts like a pickle putter, which actually increased his golf score.  Next thing you know somebody paints a big pickle on the 9 car and the announcer begin referring to it as the "Pickle Wagon".

Chase's announcement jogged my memory and boy do I miss seeing that black number 9 race and the weird pickle with a face, legs, arms, and a crown it carried around in circles...and it makes me miss my dad even more.