|"I think it will be great"|
Dale Earnhardt, Sr. won six of his seven NASCA Cup Series championships at the wheel of Richard Childress Racing’s iconic, No. 3 Chevrolet, before losing his life in a crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. The number has not been used in Sprint Cup competition since, but Childress said recently that Dillon – his grandson -- will likely graduate to NASCAR’s premier series in 2014, with the No. 3 that has adorned his door panels for years.
“It was an iconic number for my father and it means a lot to a lot of his fans,” said Earnhardt yesterday. “(But) this sport doesn't retire numbers. All the numbers have history tied to them for several different reasons. The No. 3 is no different.
“Austin came up through the ranks and drove the No. 3 in dirt racing and… in the Truck Series and Nationwide Series. He has earned the right to run that number as long as he wants.”
|Earnhardt, Sr. died in 2001|
Earnhardt said the fact that Dillon is the grandson of his father’s former team owner has little to do with his feelings on the matter, saying, “It’s Austin, but it could have been anybody. It could have been any kid coming up through the ranks that had run that number. That's his number.
“Maybe he's not even an Earnhardt fan! Maybe that is just his number. He wants to run it (and) I think it's not really fair to deny somebody that opportunity. I'm okay with it.
While understanding that some fans still feel protective of his father’s former number and do not want to see it return to the race track, Earnhardt said, “I'm sure it's the minority that feels that way.
“I think a lot of people will be telling Austin positive things about it."