While most NASCAR fans associate the No. 88 with the likes of Dale Jarrett, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and now Alex Bowman, some may not know that none other than Caitlyn Jenner was once contacted about driving the No. 88 car in the Cup Series just four years after winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
Darrell Waltrip ditched the No. 88 car following the 1980 NASCAR season
After spending the early years of his NASCAR career mostly driving his own cars, Darrell Waltrip signed a multi-year contract with DiGard Racing in the middle of the 1975 season, replacing Donnie Allison in the No. 88 Chevrolet. In 11 races for DiGard to close out the season, Waltrip recorded four top-10 and three top-five finishes and also earned the second Cup Series win of his career at the Capital City 500 in Richmond.
Over the next five seasons, Waltrip added 95 top-10 and 80 top-five finishes and won 25 Cup Series races in the No. 88, including back-to-back wins at the Coca-Cola 600 in 1978 and 1979. However, following the 1980 season, he negotiated an early exit from his contract with DiGard and joined the Junior Johnson team, replacing Cale Yarborough in the No. 11 car.
And it’s here where Caitlyn Jenner came into play.
Caitlyn Jenner was contacted about taking over the No. 88 car and expressed interest
In April 1979, Caitlyn Jenner was invited to compete in a celebrity race ahead of the Formula 1 Long Beach Grand Prix, won, and got hooked on motorsports. Soon after, Jenner began training in Riverside, California, with sports car racer Jim Busby and made her professional debut at the 1980 24 Hours of Daytona, where the team placed 56th. A month later, the team of Busby, Jenner, and Rick Knoop competed at the 12 Hours of Sebring, where they finished 48th.
So how does all of that relate to the No. 88 car. Well, as it turns out, once Darrell Waltrip decided to leave DiGard, the team contacted a number of people to replace him in the No. 88, one of whom was Caitlyn Jenner, who, as you can see in the video below, expressed serious interest. However, the partnership never came to be as DiGard ultimately hired Ricky Rudd ahead of the 1981 NASCAR Cup Series season.
However, that certainly wasn’t the end of Caitlyn Jenner’s racing career as she competed professionally throughout the 1980s. Jenner won the aforementioned celebrity race a second time in 1982 and also competed in the IMSA Camel GT series for a time. Jenner’s eldest son, Burt, later competed in former NASCAR driver Robby Gordon‘s Stadium Super Trucks series and won four times.
Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt Jr. later drove the double eights
Since Darrell Waltrip gave up the No. 88 car back in 1980, a number of racers have had the famous number on the side of their respective rides over the last four-plus decades, most notably Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jarrett made 380 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series in the No. 88 for Yates Racing, recording 188 top-10 and 129 top-five finishes with 29 victories, including two wins at the Daytona 500. He left Yates following the 2006 season to join Michael Waltrip Racing, at which point the No. 88 was coincidentally taken over by the driver who beat out Caitlyn Jenner for the car more than a quarter-century earlier, Ricky Rudd.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took over the No. 88 the following year after the number had been transferred to Hendrick Motorsports and recorded 139 top-10 and 73 top-five finishes with nine wins with the double eights on his door.
The No. 88 car is currently driven for Hendrick by Alex Bowman.
Stats courtesy of Racing Reference