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Austin Dillon Brings Back #3 To NASCAR Sprint Cup, Earnhardt Family Mixed

After a 13-year absence from the track, NASCAR’s legendary No. 3 is ready to return to the Sprint Cup Series, and will be back at the Daytona 500.  Austin Dillon will be driving the car for his grandfather’s company, Richard Childress Racing.  The number was Childress’ when he raced.

It was 13 years ago that Dale Earnhardt last raced the No. 3.  Earnhardt was tragically killed in a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. No other driver has competed in the Cup series in the No. 3 since then.  Earnhardt won six of his seven Cup titles behind the wheel of the number 3 car for Richard Childress.

“Dale was so important in driving that number,” Dillon said at Thursday’s NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway. “He was the guy that made that number what it is today. But Dale Earnhardt is Dale Earnhardt not only because of the number, but because he was a hero and created so many things for this sport.  The number for me, hopefully I can continue the legacy that it has and keep on moving on with it.”

Dillon explained that he has been racing in a No. 3 car all the way back to his first days behind the wheel of a go-cart.  won the Camping World Truck Series in 2011 and the Nationwide Series championship last season in vehicles with the famous No. 3.

Dillon did initially give thought to perhaps not driving the No. 3 once he reached the Sprint Cup division, exploring other numbers, including 12, 21, 41, and 33.  However the first three are already taken, and he didn’t end up going with 33.  Eventually he got permission from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take the No. 3.

“There’s always thoughts of it,” he said. “I feel like you go through times, and you don’t know what to go through.  My family, RCR (Richard Childress Racing), all the people there around us, hearing it from Dale Jr. (who gave Dillon his blessing to drive the No. 3) and people like that, is very influential I feel like to where we’re at today.

“Yeah, I mean, I’ve looked at other numbers and stuff, too.  It wasn’t like, ‘That’s the number I want to run. Bam, bam, that’s how I was going to do it or nothing.’ We were very respectful in the fact it was up to my grandfather and the people that were around that number the longest.”

“So I’m not a kid that says, ‘Hey, this is what I want, this is what I’m going to get.’ I’ve never been that way. Hopefully, I’m never portrayed that way. I’m a very respectful person and look to the history of the sport. I feel fortunate I’m getting this opportunity, though.”

Earnhardt’s mother Martha spoke with Fox Sports 1 about the number saying. “I have mixed feelings because I was told that I would never see a number three on the race track after Dale died.”

“As long as they don’t make it look like the number three (that her son drove),” Martha Earnhardt said. “If they painted it a different color … I can sort of deal with it, but I don’t want to see the black number three just like Dale’s. But that’s not my decision.”

While its not her decision, all NASCAR fans hope that they respect her wishes, and every fan’s memory of the black and red No. 3.



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