Nothing’s official, yet, but don’t be surprised to see current NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Austin Dillon in the Sprint Cup Series on a more regular basis next year. Also, don’t be surprised to see him driving, gasp, the No. 3.
Dillon is running part-time in the Sprint Cup Series this year, along with his driving duties in the Nationwide Series. But when driving a Cup car, so far, Dillon has either been seen driving the No. 3 for Circle Sport on the No. 51 for Phoenix Racing. With Kevin Harvick making the move from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas Racing next year, there will probably be a ride available at RCR, the team owned by Dillon’s grandfather, Richard Childress. Don’t be surprised to see Dillon in said seat.
Yeah, yeah, that car that Harvick is driving now and has driven since moving up to the Cup Series to fill the seat left open when Dale Earnhardt died in 2001 has been the No. 29 since Harvick took over the ride. But speculation now adays has the car number being changed back to its original 3 when Dillon takes over the ride.
A lot of fans, mostly fans who were die-hard Earnhardt fans, are against the change back to the No. 3, believing that the number shouldn’t be on the track for Sprint Cup races since that fateful February day at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in 2001. I’m thinking Dillon in a No. 3 may not be such a bad idea — and must I say, I was an Earnhardt fan — and here’s a few reasons why:
1.) No other number has been retired in the sport, whether the driver who made the number has passed or not. I can’t think of any other number that’s considered to be “off the table.”
2.) Dale Earnhardt Jr. is okay with Dillon driving a No. 3 at the Sprint Cup level. We’re talking the seven-time champion’s own son giving his blessing, here.
3.) Dillon has been driving the No. 3 throughout his NASCAR career. Yeah, yeah, he hasn’t been driving it at the Sprint Cup level, but he has throughout his time in the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series. He won a Truck championship driving a No. 3 and was Nationwide Rookie of the Year as driver of the No. 3. Isn’t it kind of becoming his number, too?
4.) Is it really Earnhardt’s number? sure, Earnhardt is most recognized by the No. 3, but early in his career, he raced with other numbers, including the No. 15. And, yes, I’m talking at the Cup level, here. Meanwhile, the No. 3, until Childress took it off his car in 2001, has been fielded, at the Cup level, by Richard Childress since back in the 1960s — many of those years with Childress, himself, driving the car. Isn’t it also Childress’ number? With Childress being Dillon’s grandfather, this would kind of be grandfather passing his number down to his grandson, whouldn’t it? By the way, before the number was associated with Childress, it was Junior Johnson’s number.
5.) Earnhardt has been dead for more than 12 years, now. It’s time the wounds healed. By that, I by no means mean that we should forget about the seven-time champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer. Actually, I think just the opposite should be done. But wouldn’t Dillon in a car be, in a way, a tribute to Earnhardt? In addition to the car owner/driver relationship, Earnhardt and Childress were also good friends. Childress putting his grandson in his old friends car could be viewed as a tribute to his fallen buddy.
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