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From the time he made his NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2001 until now, Jimmie Johnson's legacy as a race car driver has been tied to the No. 48. But when he makes his return to NASCAR as a part-time driver and co-owner of Petty GMS in 2023 (following two years in IndyCar), the seven-time Cup champion won't be using that signature number.

The No. 48 still belongs to Hendrick Motorsports and driver Alex Bowman, who filled the seat of Johnson's car after his retirement from full-time Cup racing at the end of the 2020 season. While no new number has officially been announced, Petty GMS president Mike Beam strongly suggested in an interview with Forbes that Johnson could use the No. 49 in his limited schedule for next season, given that it combines the legacy of both Johnson and fellow team owner Richard Petty.

"Once we made the announcement with Jimmie, people started connecting the dots. Seven times seven is 49," Beam said. "We have two seven-time champions and if you multiply seven times seven, you get 49. That would be a perfect number for our team with Richard Petty and Jimmie Johnson."

While nothing has been officially set, the No. 49 is among the options for Johnson as alternates to the No. 48 he drove throughout his prime. Petty teams have also used the No. 44, which Johnson used while racing on the ASA National Tour from 1998 to 1999. 

Another option is the No. 92, which Johnson drove while racing for Herzog Motorsports in what is now the NASCAR Xfinity Series from 2000 to 2001. The No. 49 was most recently used in the Cup Series in 2020, when MBM Motorsports fielded the number for three races with driver Chad Finchum.