by Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com
As I was perusing through some of the news stories this week, I came across one story, although not 100% pertinent to Cup racing, that kept coming back to me. Its a story with a history and one that touches most any race fan that is alive today. If I say the name Austin Dillon, few will know who I am talking about, but if I mention the number 3, virtually everyone knows what I am talking about.
For those who do not know, Austin Dillon is the 17-year-old grandson of Richard Childress. He is extremely competitive in the lower racing leagues and has many wins under his belt already. As with any young driver, Dillon is trying to work his way through the ranks to get to the ultimate in racing, the Sprint Cup Series. In order to do this, Dillon is racing in the Camping World East regional tour. Its another series in the lower levels with the potential to help him crossover to the big time. The thing that caught my eye before I knew anything about this kid was the number on the black and red car that he was standing next to. In its all too familiar script, the number 3 appears on the side of the door as Dillon notes that he asked his grandfather, Richard Childress if he could have permission to use it.
Some may also not know that Childress used the number back in the late seventies and early eighties when he used to race. Of course, the numbers notoriety exists because of Dale Earnhardt Sr. He used the number from the time that he raced with Childress and it has been put in retirement since his death in 2001. Honestly, I do not think that anyone would ponder using the number because it is so holy in the eyes of so many NASCAR fans. That number is Earnhardt Sr.s number. It always was and always will be for most.
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But Dillon would like to change that. Its not necessarily a bad thing or even a conceited notion to think that he would use Sr.s number. After all, there are pictures of Dillon with Sr. in victory lane. With Childress as your grandfather, its inevitable that you will have access to some of racings greatest legends. The number has only been seen twice on the track since Sr.s passing and both times the car was driven by his son in the Nationwide series in 2002 and 2003. It would be nice to see the number on the track again. Come to think of it, its still odd NOT seeing Sr.s black Goodwrench on the track.
The Intimidator is sorely missed. It seems like just yesterday we were watching him hold a block to see Mikey and Jr. make a 1-2 finish at Daytona. That is a day that will be in the racing history books forever and a day that few racing fans will forget. It was such an unexpected crash at such an unexpected moment. For someone with such a legacy, I dare say that Dillon has a lot to live up to. I am not quite sure that he grasps the scope of taking on such a number. There is so much history behind and so much that people associate with it that whether he likes it or not, there will be comparisons, there will be criticism, and there could be adoration for bringing it back. It all depends on his performance. Watching the number 3 car perform poorly will not sit well with any diehard Earnhardt fans.
Dillon, I advise you to fasten your seatbelt. You could be the most talented driver in the world, but people will still talk and people will still criticize. Think about the legacy that you are opening back up. Can you handle the responsibility that comes with such greatness? I guess we will have to wait and see. I wish him luck in the regional series that he competes in and actually do hope to see a return of the number 3 to the track. Whether or not Dillon is the best choice for that reintroduction is not up to me.