Kaulig Racing provided the reveal at the start of the Next Gen test at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday, December 15. The team posted a photo of Haley kneeling next to the team’s Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro, which featured No. 31 on the doors.
The 2022 season will feature the return of the No. 31 to full-time competition after three mostly-dormant years. Tyler Reddick used the number for two races during the 2019 season, but no one has headed to the track with 31 on the door since.
The organization created intrigue on Tuesday, December 14, by announcing that AJ Allmendinger, Noah Gragson, and Daniel Hemric will share the No. 16 Chevrolet during the 2022 Cup Series season. This announcement confirmed that Haley would have a different number as he took on his first full-time season, but Kaulig Racing did not initially provide an update. Instead, the team’s social media accounts asked what number Haley will run.
The No. 31 Has Featured Some Big Names as Drivers
The number on Haley’s door should be a familiar sight for NASCAR fans. After all, the No. 31 has been part of NASCAR history from the very beginning and has featured such names as Jim Vandiver, Buddy Young, Bill Ervin, Ward Burton, and Brad Teague among many, many others.
The first time that the No. 31 took the track was in 1949 with Sterling Long as the driver. He made two starts in the No. 31 Hudson before Ben Cannizzaro drove the No. 31 Ford for one race to finish out the 1949 schedule.
While a multitude of drivers controlled the No. 31 from 1949 until 2019, none were able to take it to Victory Lane until the 2001 season. Robby Gordon achieved this goal by winning the 2001 New Hampshire 300 after replacing Mike Skinner, who suffered numerous injuries in a crash at Chicagoland Speedway.
Gordon remained the driver of the No. 31 until the end of the 2004 season, and he reached Victory Lane two more times. He secured wins at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International in 2003.
Jeff Burton, who reached Victory Lane four times in the No. 31, took over for Gordon after the 2004 season and controlled it until the end of the 2013 season. He now tops the list, per Driver Averages, with 324 starts, 104 top-10s, 43 top-fives, four wins, and 92,807 completed laps.
The No. 31 Nearly Won a Championship Trophy
While Burton set records with the No. 31, another driver nearly secured a championship trophy during his first season behind the wheel. Ryan Newman finished second in points during the 2014 season.
Newman took over for Burton in what was the first year of the modern elimination format of the playoffs. He went winless during the season but still reached the playoffs after a consistent year in which he registered 16 top-10 finishes and five top-fives in 36 starts.
Newman performed well during the elimination rounds and then made a stunning move during the cutoff race at Phoenix to secure his spot in the first championship four. Newman raced behind Kyle Larson and Marcos Ambrose with two laps remaining in the race, but he needed to move past at least one of them to earn enough points to move on.
Newman made up enough ground to pull next to Larson on the final turn of the race. He sent the No. 42 into the wall and moved into 11th place, grabbing the final spot in the championship four in the process and knocking Jeff Gordon out of contention.
Newman went to Homestead-Miami Speedway to close out the season, but he ultimately finished second behind Kevin Harvick, who won the 2014 Cup Series championship. Denny Hamlin finished seventh while Joey Logano finished 16th, last among the championship-eligible drivers.
While Newman did not win the title with the No. 31, he was able to bring it back to Victory Lane during his time behind the wheel. He won at Phoenix in 2017 and became only the third driver to win with the number.