Take a number

Busch has gotten off to a fast start in the No. 22 car this season. Jason Smith/Getty Images

This story appears in the March 7, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

The numbers 3, 24 and 43 are indelible to racing fans, but most stock car drivers don't get too cozy with their digits. NASCAR owns and assigns numbers annually, so when a driver moves shops his number can't always tag along. "It's not the end of the world," says Ryan Newman, who raced seven seasons in the 12 car before choosing the No. 39 at Stewart-Haas in '09. "You still have to go out and race." These six drivers are changing their numeric identities in 2011 and, they hope, their less-than-stellar results, too.