(Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on the No. 3: "It can't be gone forever"


NASCAR team owner Richard Childres has said all along he has no plans to bring the stylized No. 3 Dale Earnhardt made famous back to Sprint Cup racing, but on Saturday Dale Earnhardt, Jr said he has no problems with Austin Dillon using the number if Childress changes his mind.

Earnhardt, Jr. went on to say that he doesn’t believe numbers are tied to drivers as much as he believes in the legacy of the numbers as a whole.

“The number is more of a bank that you just deposit history into,” Earnhardt Jr. said Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “It doesn’t really belong to any individual.”

Everyone knows the No. 3 was made famous by Dale Earnhardt, who drove it to six of his seven championships at NASCAR’s top series. No one has driven the NO. 3 full-time at the Nationwide or Sprint Cup level since Earnhardt’s death on the final lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001. But what many don’t know is that Richard Childress first ran the number before he became a car owner as a tribute to Junior Johnson. Although he never won as a driver, Childress proved to be average behind the No. 3 registering six top-fives, seventy-six top-10s finishes and a career best of third in 1978.

Austin Dillon began using the number in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series when he debuted in 2009, and will take the number with him to the Nationwide garage in 2012 with AdvoCare as the primary sponsor. In October when Dillon made his Sprint Cup debut at Kansas Speedway, he drove the No. 98. It has been said that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champ will likely run a handful of Sprint Cup races next year, but no number has been assigned.

Earnhardt, Jr. went on to say it would be unfair to deny Dillon the opportunity to keep running the No. 3. He also understands that his fans have a strong allegiance to the number.

“Dad did great things,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “He was a great ambassador for the sport and we’re still, as a whole, reaping the benefits of all he accomplished and what he did that put us in front of a lot of people.

To his credit, Dillon has embraced the history of the number, and shown nothing but respect for its history and Earnhardt Jr. recognizes that.

“Austin is a good kid, he seems to have a great appreciation for what’s happening to him and what’s going on around him,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “And I would be happy if he wanted to keep doing that. He kind of had to know when he first started to run that number if he got this far into the deal, he would have to cross a few bridges like that and that was a tough decision, I guess, at first to start running the number for him, knowing what kind of pressures he might face down the road.

NASCAR Most Popular Driver went onto say that he must know some controversy might swirl around the decision to run a No. 3 as he progressed in NASCAR’s ranks, but he gave his blessing to the move.

“It’s got to get back on the racetrack one of these days,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “It can’t be gone forever.”

What do you think NASCAR fans? Should Richard Childress bring the No. 3 back in the Sprint Cup Series?

Tags: Austin Dillon Dale Earnhardt Jr Homestead-Miami Speedway NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Richard Childress

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