23XI Racing broke major news on Friday, Aug. 27, revealing that Kurt Busch will drive the No. 45 Toyota Camry during the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. Shortly after the announcement, former driver Kyle Petty gave his blessing for the team to use the number.
45 has not covered the door on a stock car since the end of the 2008 season, Petty’s final in the Cup Series. The driver originally switched from No. 44 to 45 near the end of the 2000 season after his son Adam tragically passed away in a crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on May 12, 2000. Petty used the number change to honor his son, who drove the No. 45 in the Busch Series.
“The number 45 is a special number to myself and the entire Petty family,” Petty said in a statement, per “Racer” writer Kelly Crandall. “We look forward to seeing that number back on the race track contending for race wins and championships. Seeing the number compete again, under the 23XI Racing banner, with Kurt behind the wheel, is exciting for us.
“While the number will always hold many memories of Adam, we know Kurt, Denny and the entire organization will represent it well. Victory Junction — a place of empowerment and inclusion for kids with chronic and serious medical illnesses envisioned by Adam — are proud to see the 45 car return and where this team will take it on the track.”
Petty Made the Number Change Permanent
The driver-turned-analyst originally switched from No. 44 to 45 for a race at Martinsville near the end of the 2000 season, and he never went back. He kept Adam’s number on his stock car for the remainder of his career.
Petty made 244 starts in the No. 45 Petty Enterprises stock car before walking away from NASCAR’s top level. He posted six top-10 finishes during this span, as well as a top-five. Petty took third in the 2007 Coca-Cola 600 behind race-winner Casey Mears and runner-up J.J. Yeley.
While Petty used No. 45 for the remainder of his career, Petty Enterprises did temporarily bring back the No. 44. According to NBC Sports, the organization hired Brian Scott for the 2016 season and gave him Petty’s old number. Scott started all 36 races and posted a best finish of second at Talladega Superspeedway.
Fans Made a Major Request of 23XI Racing
Several racing fans expressed excitement about seeing Busch bring back the No. 45 after many years on the shelf. Others went a step further and made a major request. They pleaded with 23XI Racing to showcase one of Adam’s schemes during the 2022 season.
If the team opts to do so, they will have the perfect opportunity at Darlington Raceway. Back in 2015, NASCAR introduced Throwback Weekend, an annual event that has become a fan-favorite. This special race weekend at Darlington provides Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and Cup Series teams with the opportunity to look back at the history of the sport and come up with some special schemes.
For example, Busch’s new teammate in Bubba Wallace used the 2021 Throwback Weekend to honor Wendell Scott. He and Root Insurance covered the stock car with Scott’s signature blue for the Goodyear 400. Kyle Busch, on the other hand, celebrated the 80th anniversary of M&M’s with a special throwback scheme.