Richard Childress has made an announcement that is rocking the world of NASCAR. A Number 3 car is returning to the Sprint Cup Series with Austin Dillon as the driver. This announcement has lined up two definite sides to the issue. There are those who welcome the return of the Number 3 and those who want it to remain sacred and preserved as a memory. This announcement was definitely unexpected and caught many by surprise.
For NASCAR fans, the Number 3 car is a sacred concept. Number 3 was the car in which Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died. The race was back in 2001 at the Daytona 500. It was a day few fans will forget. Dale Earnhardt, Sr (pictured) had made it to the last lap in the race. Then tragedy struck as a collision took his life. Since then, the number has not been used by a driver until this season. In response to his death, NASCAR made a lot of safety improvements.
It should be noted at this point that NASCAR doesn’t retire numbers as they do in basketball or hockey. As long as a racing company rents a number from NASCAR, they can use it at any time. Richard Childress Racing is the current owner of the number. So, technically the company has a right to race under the Number 3 — in fact, Dillon has been doing it in the Nationwide and Camping World Series.
But putting Austin Dillon in Number 3 in the Sprint Cup does seem like a risky move on the surface. After all, it really hasn’t been all that long since Earnhardt’s death. His son is still racing and making his own name for himself, which is why Jr. never ran the Number 3. Of course, it would probably be very hard for Jr. to run the number his dad died under. It also has the risk of turning off some fans of Childress Racing. This is already being shown in the responses to the news item.
It isn’t as if Dillon has been all that hot on the track either. He is relatively new to the Sprint Cup, even though he has raced in the Truck series and won the 2013 Nationwide championship (without winning any of the races). In his last Sprint Cup race in Texas, he finished 22nd. So, this is a guy just barely getting started in his racing career. Some fans feel that he really isn’t experienced enough to take on Earnhardt’s mantle.
On the other side, some fans are thrilled to see a Number 3 again even if it is with a different driver. The number is famous. Seeing it go around the track again is bringing back some of the excitement of the races of the past. While they may never become fans of Dillon, they are just happy to see that Number 3 is racing again.
Either way, the announcement did shock quite a few NASCAR fans. This will be something that fans will be talking about well after Number 3 hits the track. I hope Dillon is ready for all that attention.
(U.S. Air Force photo)