He would have had the same career, no matter what the number was.
- Jeff Gordon in the #46? What might have been? All those #24 tattoos vowing allegiance to Jeff Gordon would have never decorated torsos, arms and legs. Those #24 diecast cars would have never been made. And a losing streak of epic proportions would have continued. Yes, Jeff Gordon’s car number was to have been #46. You know that if you saw the jaw-dropping tweet from Ray Evernham, Gordon’s former crew chief, that showed two pictures of Rainbow-colored race cars with the #46 on the door instead of the #24. But that is only part of the story. You likely haven’t heard the whole story of how one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers nearly had a number that has had little significance throughout sports.
Gordon joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1992 and the plan was to run the #46. Hendrick used that number for one race in 1989 and another in 1990 with Greg Sacks driving a car to film racing scenes for “Days of Thunder.” Cole Trickle (played by Tom Cruise) drove the #46 car in the movie. An issue arose when John Bickford, Gordon’s stepfather, looked into trademarking the #46. Bickford sought to create a licensing program around Gordon but discovered that Paramount Pictures had secured the licensing rights for that number for toys, apparel and other souvenirs affiliated with the movie – released two years before Gordon’s series debut. Bickford told Hendrick Motorsports officials that they would have to change the number to something other than 46.
“They went through a series of numbers available from NASCAR, presented those numbers to Rick (Hendrick) and Jeff,” Bickford said told Motor Racing Network. “What our thinking was we wanted a number that had no real historical connection to anything, certainly wasn’t going to have any licensing problems. The #24 sat there and it had no significant relevance to the industry.” The #24 had never won a race in NASCAR’s top series.
The next issue was the paint scheme. The Rainbow theme was there but Evernham said that the middle of the car was black not blue. That’s how artist Sam Bass originally drew the car. Bickford recalls that DuPont officials wanted more than just drawings to see how the car looked, so the team painted a couple of cars and kept them locked behind closed doors since Gordon’s debut had not been announced. Photographs of the car were sent to DuPont and then company officials came to Hendrick Motorsports to inspect the car. That leads to the photographs of a #46 Rainbow-colored car Evernham posted this week. It came from a fan. Evernham admits he forgot about the number and the story behind it until seeing the pictures.(Motor Racing Network)(1-8-2015)