Austin Dillon to bring No. 3 to Sprint Cup Series
The late Dale Earnhardt’s famed No. 3 will be back on track in
the elite Sprint Cup Series next season with Austin Dillon using
The move has been long anticipated because car owner Richard
Childress has allowed his grandson to use the No. 3 as he’s moved
through NASCAR’s ranks.
”I know in my heart, today, as I sit here, Dale Earnhardt is
smiling down,” Childress said at Wednesday’s unveiling. ”He would
want to see this 3. He didn’t want it to ever go away. But I felt
it was the thing to do right after Daytona, and I know today that
he’s accepting this highly. I knew him that well.”
The number has not been used since Earnhardt’s death in the 2001
season-opening Daytona 500. The car was rebranded to No. 29 for
Kevin Harvick following Earnhardt’s fatal accident.
But Dillon has been using it NASCAR national competition since
2009, when he made his Truck Series debut in the No. 3. He won the
Truck championship in 2011 driving the No. 3 for Richard Childress
Racing, and the Nationwide title this year in the same number.
Childress kept the number out of the Cup Series, though, intent
on hanging on to it for the right driver.
”We held the number, I’ve been paying NASCAR for it throughout
the years and Bill (France) Jr. told me `You know, if we’re ever
challenged, we’ll have to let someone have that 3,’ ” Childress
said. ”But we weren’t, and I knew that the right opportunity would
come. It would have to be an Earnhardt or one of the Childress
family that we would put behind that.”
Childress said he publicly floated the idea of allowing Dillon
to use the No. 3 at the start of the year to get a fan response,
and got 90 percent positive feedback the day after he mentioned the
”That said to me it was time, and if Austin wanted to it was
his choice,” Childress said.
Dillon said he was ready, and it’s the only number he’s ever
used in NASCAR.
”My grandfather has done a great job of teaching me how to
handle certain responses to things, and I think we’re going to go
forward with it,” Dillon said. ”I’ve heard a lot of good feedback
from the fans, and every time I’m at an autograph session I’ve had
someone ask what’s going to happen. They are excited and we are,
too, at RCR.
”It’s what our sport was built on – family and history – and a
great opportunity for all of our sport to see this No. 3 back on
The No. 3 Chevrolet will be sponsored by Dow, Bass Pro, Realtree
and General Mills. Neither of the two paint schemes unveiled
Wednesday resembled the dominant black cars driven by Earnhardt,
winner of seven Cup titles and a first ballot Hall of Famer.
But Childress believed just having the No. 3 back in the series
will help resurrect Earnhardt’s legacy.
”My hope is that Dale Earnhardt fans will be re-energized and
say `Hey, it gives me something to look at,’ ” he said. ”We know
we aren’t going to please everyone. We know that. We are going to
do our best to make them proud and I know Austin will. I think the
new fans will learn a lot about the great Dale Earnhardt by
Gil Martin, who led Harvick to six berths in the Chase for the
Sprint Cup championship, will be crew chief for Dillon.
Childress said he’s consulted with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his
sister, Kelley, every time he’s moved the No. 3 to a different
level on the track and the Earnhardt family has been supportive.
Earnhardt Jr. declined to use the No. 3 following his father’s
death, but has raced the number in the Nationwide Series.
”I would be worried if I didn’t think he’d respect it or not
understand the legacy, but he does. I know he does. He appreciates
it,” Earnhardt Jr. said last week of Dillon using the No. 3.
RCR will field a three-car Cup lineup next season with Dillon,
Paul Menard and Ryan Newman.
Ty Dillon will run a full Nationwide Series schedule, and
Childress said Wednesday he’s sold his Truck Series assets to