NASCAR fans are all abuzz with the recent official announcement that the famous Number 3 returns to NASCAR with Austin Dillon. Dillon will be moving up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time next year with Richard Childress Racing. Fans know full well that no one—not even the legendary Dale Earnhardt Jr. – has driven the Number 3 car in the Sprint Cup Series since Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.
While the Childress organization has kept hold of the rights for Number 3 since the accident, no one has vied for the use of the number. At a recent press conference Childress explained: “We held the number. I’ve been paying NASCAR for it.” Childress added he was told by officials they would “have to give it up if someone wanted it” but they were not challenged.
Childress continued: “It would have to be an Earnhardt or one of the Childress family that we’d put in the 3,” adding, “For Austin to go out and do what he did with that number proves it’s time. The first time I put out the idea of running the 3, support was around 80-85 percent, then after a day, it went to 90. It was time. It was Austin’s choice.”The 23 year-old will be replacing the 13-year team veteran Kevin Harvick who is leaving RCR for Stewart-Haas Racing. Dillon is well aware of the important NASCAR history of racing Number 3.
He confessed: “It’s a huge responsibility; I’ve been put in by my grandfather, and he’s been great to push me in right direction and handle things the right now. Everyone knows who made this number famous. We feel like, with bringing it back, and working with RCR, it is going to be special. I feel fortunate, and I want to run well. I want to set high goals and maintain those.”
“I know in my heart that Dale Earnhardt is smiling down,” Childress concluded.
(Image courtesy of Espn.go.com)