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Motorsports 101 Debate: Should RCR Bring Back the #3 to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series?

December 11th, 2013 at 9:00 AM
By Mark Eddinger
Richard Childress Racing has an announcement scheduled for noon ET today about Austin Dillon’s future in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. All speculation has pointed to the fact that the No. 3 made famous at the organization by Dale Earnhardt will return with Dillon behind the wheel in 2014. Motorsports 101 debates whether the No. 3 should be brought back into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
 
 
Richard Childress Racing has been in NASCAR since the 1969 season when a young independent driver named Richard Childress ran his first career NASCAR Grand National Series race when several of the big named drivers boycotted running at Talladega Superspeedway because of unsafe conditions. Childress ran the race that had a huge payout. Childress finished 23rd and was given an extra $8,000 for his troubles as Big Bill France rewarded the drivers that afternoon. Childress took that money and bought land in Welcome, North Carolina and built a race shop in the location where Richard Childress Racing is still located today. For the early part of his career Childress ran the No. 96 but in 1976, money got tight for the independent driver and instead of spending money to paint two numerals on his car he decided to change his number to a single digit. That number was 3. That was Childress’ number until the day he handed his car over to a driver from Kannapolis, North Carolina named Dale Earnhardt in 1981.
 
'Dale Earnhardt: NASCAR Photography By Darryl Moran' photo (c) 2009, Darryl Moran - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
 

Earnhardt drove the final 11 races of that 1981 season in Childress' No. 3 before driving for Bud Moore in 1982 and 1983. Childress would hire Ricky Rudd in 1982 and they would have pretty decent success until Earnhardt became available again prior to the 1984 season and the rest as they say is history. From 1984 to 2001 Earnhardt ran the No. 3 and won a remarkable 67 races and six championships. Earnhardt and his No. 3 car became one of the most iconic figures in American auto racing history. That was until the day he died on February 18, 2001 when he crashed on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Since that day the No. 3 has not raced in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. 

Throughout Earnhardt’s career and life one of his closest friends and companions was car owner Richard Childress. Childress and Earnhardt had a ton of respect for each other and would go hunting on a regular basis with one another. It’s hard to argue that anyone knew Earnhardt better than Richard Childress himself. 
 
The legend of Dale Earnhardt will never be tainted. Just because the No. 3 may be back on the track, that will never take away from anything Dale Earnhardt did in a racecar or off the racetrack. Dale Earnhardt’s legacy will be as great 20 years from now as it is today and was when Earnhardt was winning a bunch of races and a bunch of championships. Look at the No. 43 with Richard Petty. Several drivers have driven the No. 43 since Petty has retired but yet Petty’s legacy is as great today as it was the day he retired in 1992. 
 
The No. 3 may come back but the memories of Earnhardt in it will never fade. With that being said there is no doubt Richard Childress knew Dale Earnhardt better than me or anyone else reading this article. Shouldn’t we leave the decision to bring back the No. 3 to one of Earnhardt’s dearest friends?
 
No. 3 Cup Ready – By Mark Eddinger
 
Legions of Dale Earnhardt fans don't want the No. 3 to ever turn another lap in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. It is understandable. They lost their hero in tragic fashion in the harshest of ways. Even 13 years later come February's Daytona 500 the wounds have not totally healed from that day's events in Turn 4.
 
'Dale Earnhardt 1997: NASCAR Photography By Darryl Moran' photo (c) 2009, Darryl Moran - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
 
Fans didn't want Richard Childress to bring back the No. 3 even to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series when he did in 2009 when Childress' grandson Austin Dillon attempted three races. Childress did. Austin Dillon then drove the No. 3 truck full time in 2010 winning two races and then went onto win the 2011 Truck Series championship. Dillon moved to the NASCAR Nationwide Series full time in 2012 and Childress brought the No. 3 with him. In 2013 Dillon again became a champion winning the Nationwide championship.
 
Since the day Childress placed Dillon in the No. 3 everyone knew this day was coming. The return of the No. 3 to the Sprint Cup Series.
 
The fans of Dale Earnhardt should not feel betrayed by Childress. The number is owned by him and surely more dear to his heart than any of ours. The healing process from the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt will continue and now will move forward with each passing lap the No. 3 turns on the track.
 
New memories will be made while the old ones of "The Intimidator" will never fade. Seeing the number on the track again can help the healing process. Austin Dillon is Cup ready and so is the No. 3.

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Tags: Austin Dillon, Clayton Caldwell, Dale Earnhardt, daytona 500, Mark Eddinger, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Richard Childress, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty

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