Dale Jr.'s No. 3 car displayed at HOF
The famed No. 3 car Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove to victory in this month's Nationwide race at Daytona was added as a temporary display at the new NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
The Wrangler-sponsored yellow and blue Chevrolet, which honors his father, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., will stay at the downtown Charlotte facility through Sept. 19. The car carries extra significance because Earnhardt, who didn't attend the unveiling, has said he doesn't plan to drive a No. 3 car again.
''That was Dale's meaning around it, a tribute to our dad,'' said Kelley Earnhardt, Dale Jr.'s sister and co-owner of JR Motorsports. ''So it's not something he wants to do every day.''
Earnhardt entered the No. 3, a replica of the car his father drove in the 1980s, in the July 2 race to honor Dale Sr.'s induction into the Hall of Fame's first class. Earnhardt then ended an 85-race winless drought in points races in an emotional night at the track where his father died in a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.
Getting the car to the $195 million Hall of Fame, which opened in May, had been a goal of director Winston Kelley for months.
''Winston had asked me a couple months ago, actually when he did the unveiling up at JR Motorsports, 'Can we have that car in the Hall of Fame?''' Kelley Earnhardt said, smiling. ''And as soon as Monday rolled around after the win, he was asking again.''
The economics of JRM's Nationwide team means it will be a temporary display as it searches for full-time sponsors and a permanent driver for 2011. After its stint at the Hall of Fame, the body of the car will be cut off and hung at JRM's shop. The chassis will be reused in future races.
''We'd like to take the whole car, but we're a Nationwide team,'' Kelley Earnhardt said. ''That's $150,000 sitting there that we can use somewhere. As long as we have the body we'll be in good shape.''
Getting the car is a coup for the Hall of Fame, which is hoping to boost attendance to reach goals.
''Whether they're Dale Earnhardt fans or not, they love the history of the sport,'' Kelley said of NASCAR fans at the unveiling. ''This is this history of the sport and this helps validate what we're all about.''