9 Racing



Why the 9?

Some numbers in auto racing signify victory...championships...dominance. Dale Earnhardt's #3 and Jeff Gordon's #24 are two such numbers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, but there is one number that dominates in open wheel racing and signifies the winning heritage achieved in the USAC National Midget Series. It's the number "9."

Steve Lewis formed the Nine Racing midget team in 1979, after a lifelong love affair with the midget race cars that he enjoyed watching week after week at race tracks in Southern California as a young man, and in Northern California while he attended San Jose State University.

Since its inception, the Nine Racing team has claimed nine USAC National Midget Series Championships.

But how did the number 9 come about, which is a symbol that connotes a championship-winning heritage?

According to Steve, the 9 actually came about by accident. In 1979, which was the very first year that he raced a midget, Stan Fox was the driver, and Don Edmunds built the car from his shop Edmunds Auto Research Shop in Anaheim, California. The objective was to race all the USAC points races in 1979. Howard Linne, the noted car owner from Mendota, Illinois, accompanied Stan at the races, and served as a stabilizing force in the program.

That first year, the team did very well, by setting the fastest qualifying time at several races, a number of heat race wins, and the team's very first USAC feature win came at Anderson Speedway in Anderson, Indiana, on September 7, 1979. "We had a very good year with Fox, and at the very end, we ended up ninth in points," said Steve.

He continued, "Now it's 1980, and we're going back to run the second year. We were very optimistic and we built the new car. In those days, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, people were painting the graphics on the cars because we didn't have vinyl stickers like we have now. The noted race car lettering painter in Southern California was a man by the name of Paul Knirm. Paul painted and lettered every significant midget, sprint car, or sports car that was manufactured or built in Southern California. Knirm had a real following. Basically, he was putting art on cars." Every race car of note in Southern California featured Paul Knirm's lettering, noted Steve, including the famed Tamale Wagon and Doug Caruthers' midgets that were driven by Danny and Jimmy Caruthers.

When it came time to paint the car, the choice was made for a pearl white on the car's body. But what number should they pick? Steve told Don that the team finished ninth in points the previous season, so Don asked Paul to paint a 9 on the car.

Paul visited Don Edmund's shop to paint the 9 on the car with his paint and brushes. "Pretty soon, this red 9 with the silver and blue outline sculpted the entire tail," explained Steve. "It wasn't just a 9 painted on the tail. The 9 became sculpted to the tail and Paul used the slope of the tail and the slope of the 9. He positioned it so it was a larger number than most cars were featuring at that time.

"I remember the first time I saw that red 9 on that pearl white car, and I thought, 'This is something special and differentiates that car from any other midget.'" The 9 on the nose was also distinctive, along with they way Paul wrote the driver name. "The car looked really nice," added Steve.

Ironically, the Nine Racing team finished ninth in points its second season, too. But, as Steve explained, "After that, we didn't always finish ninth, but I just kept registering the car as 9," which it has used for almost 30 years of racing. When the team runs multiple cars, they incorporate the "9" somehow with 91, 19, and so forth.

"The genesis of the 9 was the Paul Knirm artwork and his beautiful perspective of how a race car should look and how a number should be applied to the car," said Steve. "Paul is really the originator of the 9. It looked so good that we just kept it and never changed it, which I think was the right thing to do because that number is significant in terms of a moniker, and it has been something that people have recognized for as long as we've been running, which has been almost 30 years. It's become, in its own way, a special number."

And a special number it is as it ranks right up there with some other very famous numbers in racing that represent a championship heritage.


Tail shot of #9 Midget

Since its inception, the Nine
Racing team has claimed
nine USAC National Midget
Series Championships.
© Nine Racing, Inc. 2011