Seeing No. 3 at Daytona 500 Will Be Historic Event
The 56th Annual Daytona 500 will take place this Sunday, February 23, 2014. There are several things that will happen that is to be expected in restrictor plate racing. There will a lot of drafting throughout the race, including bump drafting when drivers start taking more chances toward the end of the race. There will be a “big one”– a big crash that involves a large group of cars– as there always is in these races. Drivers will go three-wide on turns and take chances they wouldn’t take in other racetracks.
The one thing that will be new– at least for the first time in 13 years– will be the car sitting on the pole at the start of the race. For the first time since the death of the legendary Dale Earnhardt Sr., Richard Childress will put the No. 3 car into the Daytona 500. The driver Childress picked to helm the famed No. 3? His own grandson, Austin Dillon– who could be the rookie of the year.
The death of Dale Sr. left the NASCAR universe reeling back in 2001 and Childress had to scramble to replace a man he considered family in less than a week. In the 13 years since, Kevin Harvick has done an admirable job driving Earnhardt’s car– though he used the No. 29. Harvick has now moved to a new team and car and that left Childress with the need to replace another driver.
So who best to replace Harvick? How about the driver was the Truck Series Rookie of the Year in 2010 and champion one year later? How the same driver who was ROTY in the Nationwide Series in 2012 and champion- again- one year later? That driver, you ask? Austin Dillon.
So why did Childress decide to give his grandson the No. 3? Other than the fact that Dillon used it in both series’ prior to moving up to the Sprint Cup Series, Childress has always stated that he would use the No. 3 in the top series for someone in the family. Who better than his own grandson?
Dillon grew up around racing. His father and Childress’ son-in-law, Mike, was a racecar driver and is currently the general manager for Richard Childress Racing. Dillon spent a lot of time growing up around Earnhardt as he was winning some of his record seven Cup Series titles.
Whatever happens on Sunday with the race, there is no arguing that seeing the No. 3 Chevrolet will be an historic event on its own. A legendary number from a legendary driver will be seen in the sports’ biggest race– where it was last seen– with quite possibly the best driver Childress could have picked to take over the number.
Growing up a big Dale Earnhardt Sr. fan, I will personally be excited and happy to see the No. 3 car back in the Sprint Cup Series. Given Dillon’s great track record in the two series’ below the Sprint Cup, I believe that the Daytona 500 will be the start of a great career and new beginning for the No. 3 Chevy.