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Jeff Gordon nearly drove the No. 46 car if not for 'Days of Thunder'

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If it weren’t for “Days of Thunder,” Jeff Gordon would be driving the No. 46 car and not the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ask a NASCAR fan the three most identifiable numbers in history and almost universally their responses, in some order, would be Richard Petty's No. 43, Dale Earnhardt's No. 3 and Jeff Gordon's No. 24.

But Gordon's former crew chief, Ray Evernham, revealed on Twitter an interesting tidbit about Gordon's iconic No. 24 on Tuesday. When Hendrick Motorsports initially decided to expand for the 1993 season and add a car for Gordon, the number originally sought was No. 46, not 24.

"When I went to work (at Hendrick), the general manager at that time, Jim Johnson, said, 'OK, your number is going to be 46,'" Evernham explained on Sirius XM Radio Tuesday. "And I think even our tools were identified with No. 46."

The reason for the change, according to Evernham, was related to the film "Days of Thunder," which had been released just a few years before. One of the prominent cars in the movie utilized No. 46, and a licensing agreement prohibited a team from using the number full-time. Thus, Hendrick was forced to select a different number for Gordon to race.

"I don't know if it was a full-time licensing issue or whatever with the 'Days of Thunder' movie or Paramount or whoever, but we had to change to number 24 because we had actually built some and I think we might have tested some cars and actually had some cars with the number 46," Evernham said.

To this day Gordon has yet to compete in a Cup Series race in a car not adorned with the No. 24.

Hendrick would later run the No. 46 in the 1993 Daytona 500 with defending Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., who finished 36th in his only NASCAR start. That same season, the team also attempted to field a car for Buddy Baker in the July race at Talladega Superspeedway, but Baker failed to qualify.

"We did a car for Buddy Baker because Buddy helped us a good bit on the speedway stuff when we first started and we had to run a car and we just slapped number 46 on it," Evernham said. "To my knowledge, it's the only time that we ever had a number 46 on the DuPont paint scheme (customarily ran by Gordon)."