Numbers game: Why Chase Elliott will keep the No. 24

It was no real surprise that Chase Elliott was announced Thursday as Jeff Gordon’s replacement in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

What may have surprised some fans is that when Elliott takes over for Gordon in 2016, he will keep Gordon’s No. 24.

After all, the Elliott family number is the No. 9: Chase’s father, Bill, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Friday night, scored 38 of his 44 career Sprint Cup victories in the No. 9, and Chase won the NASCAR Xfinity Series title last year in a No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

Currently, Richard Petty Motorsports uses the No. 9 in the Sprint Cup Series, but teams have been known to trade numbers, often in exchange for undisclosed sums of cash. An accommodation probably could have been reached.

But Chase Elliott said he was thrilled to be able to keep Gordon’s number when he moves up.

"I think having the honor of driving the No. 24 is something that a racer can only dream of," Elliott said during Thursday’s final stop on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "Honestly, that is such an iconic number. It’s a legendary number.

"And for Jeff to tell me that he wants me to drive the No. 24, that right there is plenty enough for me to be on board with it," said Elliott. "He asked me if I was OK with that, and if we were shaking hands, I’d have ripped his arm off. That’s an opportunity that nobody would turn down."

For his part, Gordon is totally on board with it, although team owner Rick Hendrick tried to talk him into putting the No. 24 on sabbatical for 2016 only.

"Rick threw that option out to me," Gordon said of not running the No. 24. "He kind of wanted to retire it for maybe a year or something like that. … For me, seeing it out there is important. I think the fans, while some of them might have a strong opinion thinking it should be retired, when they see how well he (Elliott) does in it, I think they’re going to be really glad he’s driving that 24 car."