It is customary in many racing series around the world to see the defending champion use the No. 1 for the following season. This is a tradition seen in both Formula One and the American Le Mans Series – though NASCAR is a notable exception.
And for quite a few years, this was the case in IndyCar-style racing – both in CART and in the IRL.
The last IndyCar driver to compete with the No. 1 on his car was Scott Dixon in 2004. However, after a disappointing year – which included the defending champ getting shut out in the win column – Dixon considered the number unlucky and when he won the title again in 2008, he refused to use the No. 1 the following season.
But in 2013, defending Izod IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay is bringing back that tradition, as he will switch from the No. 28 to No. 1 for the forthcoming season.
"It is a huge honor to have earned the right to run the No. 1," Hunter-Reay said in a press release sent out Wednesday.
For Hunter-Reay, the decision wasn't necessarily an easy one. In an interview with SB Nation in October, the Andretti Autosport driver said the No. 28 had "special meaning to him" as it represents the 28 million people living with cancer – and he was unsure whether he would change over to the No. 1 for the coming season.
Hunter-Reay's mother lost her life to colon cancer in 2009 and using the No. 28 is his way of bringing awareness to his Racing with Cancer organization.
"The No. 28 has so much meaning to so many," Hunter-Reay said in a statement. "But we recognized that our team, partners and sponsors have all earned the right to carry the No. 1 – we worked hard together and it's something they all deserve.
"Racing for Cancer's number one goal is to beat cancer. And we realized that running the No. 1 with the No. 28 incorporated into the design – a very important detail to me personally – would provide us with an opportunity to strengthen the message and cause of beating cancer while at the same time recognizing our partners and sponsors dedication to excellence on, and off, the track."
Hunter-Reay won't be the only Andretti Autosport driver to switch numbers in 2013, as his teammate Marco Andretti will be switching from No. 26 – the car number he's used since his 2006 rookie season – to No. 25. Andretti is making the change because he considers his old number to be "unlucky."
"I like the meaning of 25 versus 26," Andretti said. "To me, 26 is a character builder through heartache and trials and looking ahead to the No. 25 means success and leadership. It's like my chance to be reborn as a veteran driver."
Andretti Autosport also announced Wednesday that DHL signed a "multi-year" agreement to continue on as Hunter-Reay's sponsor.
Other champions who ran No. 1 (via IndyCar PR)
1982 - Rick Mears (CART)
1983 - Rick Mears (CART) except in Indianapolis 500 where he used No. 2. George Snider used No. 1 at Indy as USAC champ
1984 - Al Unser (CART) except at Indy where Tom Sneva used No. 1 as defending 500 winner (USAC champ)
1985 - Mario Andretti except at Indy where Rick Mears (USAC champ) used it and Road America where Alan Jones drove Andretti's car
1986 - Rick Mears (CART) except at Indy where Danny Sullivan used it as defending race champion
1987 - Bobby Rahal (CART)
1988 - Bobby Rahal (CART) except at Indy where Al Unser used it as defending race winner
1989 - Danny Sullivan (CART)
1990 - Emerson Fittipaldi (CART)
1991 - Al Unser Jr. (CART) except at Indy where Arie Luyendyk used it as defending race winner
1992 - Michael Andretti (CART)
1993 - Bobby Rahal (CART)
1994 - Nigel Mansell (CART)
1995 - Al Unser Jr. (CART)
1996 - Raul Boesel (CART) driving car Villeneuve won 1995 title for Team Green
1996-1997 - Scott Sharp (IRL) except at Indy where Paul Durant drove his car and Texas, Charlotte, Loudon and Las Vegas where Billy Boat drove his car.
1997 - Jimmy Vasser (CART)
1998 - Tony Stewart (IRL)
1998 - Alex Zanardi (CART)
2000 -- Greg Ray (IRL)
2000 - Juan Pablo Montoya (CART)
2001 - Gil de Ferran (CART)
2002 - Cristiano da Matta (CART) for three races after he clinched the 2002 title
2003 - Bruno Junqueira (CART) driving car da Matta won 2002 title with (Newman/Haas)
2004 - Scott Dixon (IRL)
2004 - Paul Tracy (CCWS)
2005 - Sebastien Bourdais (CCWS)
2006 - Sebastien Bourdais (CCWS)
2006 - Michael Andretti (IRL) driving entry in Indianapolis 500 for defending race winner Andretti Green Racing
2007 - Sebastien Bourdais (CCWS)