Today's question: Continuing with the car number theme from last week, do you think the defending series champion of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES should run the following season with No. 1 on their car, as was tradition in previous generations? For the record, No. 1 has been used five times since the unification of the sport in 2008 (by Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2013, Will Power in 2015, Simon Pagenaud in 2017 and Josef Newgarden in 2018 and 2020).
Curt Cavin: It should definitely be optional. Teams sometimes have sponsorship ties to numbers, as Dario Franchitti’s car did with No. 50 in the 2012 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, and there is brand equity in numbers. The other thing is, I don’t think today’s race fans, especially the casual ones, make the connection to last year as much as they did in years past.
Zach Horrall: No. Race car drivers are so ingrained with their car numbers, because this is a sport where the athletes are not physically visible. They are identified by their livery, yes, but more so their car numbers. No. 9? That’s Scott Dixon. No. 20? That’s Ed Carpenter. No. 12? That’s Will Power. Even Jimmie Johnson brought his iconic No. 48 with him from NASCAR to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. You see that number and you know who it is. Changing numbers makes it harder to identify drivers, especially to the more casual fan. And if I’m a driver, that’s the number that has defined my career. I wouldn’t want to alter the history I’m writing with that number.
Paul Kelly: I think it should be optional to run the No. 1 the season after winning the championship, and I wouldn’t do it, for two reasons. One, I’ve never liked the No. 1 worn in any sport. Just seems too self-centered and arrogant, as in, “Look at me: I’m the one, numero uno.” But I suppose winning a title earns you that right to brag. Still, numerical equity builds with fans over time. For example: Scott Dixon is synonymous with No. 9. Jimmie Johnson is No. 48 and no other digits. That helps build tighter bonds with fans, and it also helps for licensed merchandise sales to have the same number consistently.