Dale Earnhardt made the No. 3 famous during his legendary NASCAR Sprint Cup career, and until now, the number hasn’t been used since the famous driver died 13 years ago. Going forward, Austin Dillon, grandson of team owner Richard Childress, will bring the No. 3 back to the Sprint Cup circuit for his 2014 rookie season, and it is a move that seems to please just about everyone, in particular the Childress-Dillon family.
The re-emergence of the No. 3 was one of the focal points of discussion this week during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Said Childress, “I have been watching the No. 3 run with Austin and Ty (Dillon) in the Nationwide (Series) and the (NASCAR) Camping World Truck Series, and it has been special to me. It will be neat to see the No. 3 the morning of the Daytona 500, and it was neat to see it during the recent test at Daytona. But the decision to use it was actually made 14 years ago when Dale Earnhardt and I were talking about what he was going to do in retirement, and how he was going to help me with the No. 3 and the team, to put a driver in the car that could win races and championships. It was not in the plans to put anyone in the car until the right driver came along. If Dale Jr. or another Earnhardt wanted to use it, that would be okay, but it had to be an Earnhardt or members of my family in the 3 car. It will be special for all of us.”
Austin Dillon grew up knowing the No. 3 was special to his family, and he has worn the No. 3 on his baseball and basketball jerseys before he even considered racing with the magic number. “Hearing what everyone at RCR has to say about it along with the fans is good enough for me. We’ve had a great response and having that number of the side of the car will allow us to prove ourselves.”
Dillon remembers being in victory lane when Earnhardt won the Daytona 500 and knows how special the moment was. Since Earnhardt won often, Dillon recalls watching the races on television with his family, knowing they would celebrate the victories with pizza. “I associated winning with pizza. For me growing up, I knew how special the number was,” Dillon noted.
Mike Dillon, father of Austin and his younger brother Ty and an executive with RCR, is proud to have his two sons racing for the team¸ and he said sometimes he has to step back to appreciate the experience. “I don’t look at it any differently than another parent does watching his kids step up to the foul line or stand in the batter’s box,” he said. “And I really appreciate it when fans pay us compliments.”
Regarding Austin’s advancement to Sprint Cup, his proud father states, “He’s earned it and he’s worked hard at each level, and now he’s ready for the big step up. If he wasn’t ready, we would have kept him in Nationwide or the trucks; it is all about performance.
“Wearing the No. 3 is huge; it is part of our life and our company. Austin is very respectful of what made the number famous, and as long as he continues to do that, it is good a good pressure for him, as he knows that he has to carry that number to the level that people want.” Childress, his RCR team, and Dillon family and everyone connected directly or indirectly with the RCR team are eager to see the famed No. 3 return to action, and it won’t be long before that happens.