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Junior and Childress favor the return of the No. 3, so what’s the problem?

By admin | December 13, 2013

Richard Childress poses with grandson Austin Dillon beside the car bearing the stylized No. 3. 

By Richard Allen

Maybe I’m just not very sentimental or something, but I’ve never understood all the fuss about retiring the jersey numbers of athletes. For that matter, I rarely even know the jersey numbers of most athletes. The number on their uniform in no way adds to or diminishes from their achievements. The fact that Major League Baseball no longer allows players to wear No. 42 doesn’t change what Jackie Robinson did for that sport. It’s just a number, in my opinion.

Likewise, my unsentimental mind doesn’t get all the fuss over the No. 3 returning to NASCAR’s top division.

Next season, Austin Dillon will drive a Richard Childress Racing car bearing that number. In my mind, that won’t change the fact that Dale Earnhardt, Sr. won six championships(he won his first title in car No. 2) and dozens of races in a similar set up. But it apparently will for some fans.

Voice your opinion on the No. 3 by voting in the poll question ———————–>

To further my point, the people who matter most in this debate, if it is indeed a debate, believe that the number ought to be back in circulation. Earnhardt’s best friend and his own son have both given their blessing to the use of the number. No one who is protesting can claim either of those two relationship statuses.

Richard Childress not only owned Earnhardt’s cars for much of “The Intimidator’s” career but was also the man’s best friend. They hunted and fished together and shared what was obviously a close personal bond. It would be hard to believe that a man who knew the Hall of Fame driver so well would in any way want to diminish his legacy.

I would find it hard to believe that anyone outside of his own family was more hurt by Earnhardt’s untimely death than Childress.

Childress sacrificed his own driving career and risked his own personal fortune on putting Earnhardt in his car. His opinion on the use of that number means more to me than that of someone who bought a t-shirt after Earnhardt became successful.

Childress will, of course, own the car that will again bear that stylized number when his grandson Austin Dillon takes to the track in 2014.

And furthermore, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has offered his blessing on the use of the No. 3 as well. The son of the legendary driver has stated that his feelings regarding his father’s accomplishments won’t be affected by having another driver on track with the No. 3 on his car.

Junior had his world turned upside down on that fateful day in February of 2001, just as he was coming into his own as a race car driver. The loss of not only his father, but his mentor, must have affected him deeply. It would seem as if there was anyone to take issue with that number being raced again, it would be him. But he doesn’t.

I am not trying to be antagonistic toward the fans of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. with this piece. I’m simply trying to point out the fact that the two of the people who were closest to the man do not have a problem with the No. 3 being brought back to Sprint Cup racing. If they don’t have a problem with it, then I certainly do not.

I am not going to pretend that I knew Dale Earnhardt, Sr. or have any sort of personal insight, but the fact that his old number will be put to use by the grandson of his best friend and car owner would most likely have pleased him.


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23 Responses to “Junior and Childress favor the return of the No. 3, so what’s the problem?”

  1. RacingFan Says:
    December 13th, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Retiring a number in any sport has the opposite effect of what is intended. When I see the 43, sometimes I still recall Petty racing. Same for 21 - Pearson, 12 - Allison, and I know it will be the same for 3 - Earnhardt.

    Out of sight - out of mind.

  2. Offkilter Says:
    December 14th, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Childress had the option of changing only the name over the windows of that black 3 car in 2001. But, out of respect for a legend, he painted his fleet of racecars the opposite color and went with the next lowest number available(29). The people that are making a big deal out of the 3 coming back to cup have no merit and miss the point. In Childress’s mind, only an extraordinary set of circumstances would bring the 3 back to cup. It has happened. A grandson that has come of age and ability. A well raised, respectable kid of good character that represents all the good things in racing with talent to back it all up.

  3. Offkilter Says:
    December 14th, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Good point, racingfan

  4. Tony Geinzer Says:
    December 14th, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Even though I’d still be in favor of retiring the 3 the same as Richie Evans’ 61, but, I think the 3’s Retirement will occur when Richard Childress retires,gets bought out or sells his team. Any one of these 3 will happen,Rich as the decade gets older, and I’d really feel the same if Richard Petty’s Health deferred him from owning and the 43 would be past tense and if the Wood Brothers stopped owning, the 21 is off the boards. I am not totally in love with the concept of retiring car numbers (AJ Foyt 14, Greg Moore 99), BUT, its a necessary if rare evil.

  5. EarnhardtFan3 Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 5:37 am

    People are missing the point. I don’t think anyone really minds a #3 car being used again. But my problem is that it’s the SAME 3 on the doors. At the Cup level, everybody who’s seen a race knows that particular design = DALE. Come up with something else for Dillon.

    That’s my only objection.

  6. GREG Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 8:16 am

    For 1 thing there were no names on the windows in 2001 as they are today , only drivers name on the edge of the roof over the drivers side window .

    Its a # that others raced not just DALE SR , they gave it a decade of respect in the cup series and it will be nice to see it back on track .

    A lot of fans go NUTS over a # , I recall Dale Jrs BUD Commercial years back where they did the spoof of him changing his # and the dumb things it depicted fans doing and at the end they all looked pretty silly when he said JUST KIDDIN :)

  7. The Old Guy Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 8:22 am

    The reason I see most posted, on all of the blogs, as to why the #3 shouldn’t return has more to do with the value of their collectables than it does with honoring Dale Earnhardt.

    IMO, the last “honest to God” champion was Alan Kulwicki. Her personified what a champion is and how you reach that leverl. So, why don’t we retire his number.

    How about Davey Allison’s #28?

    Fireball Roberts #22.

    The numbers, themselves, honor the history of the sport and honor the men who drove them.

    Put the #3 back on the track? Absolutely.

  8. GinaV24 Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I’m fine with it. As you pointed out, the number belongs to Childress. I remember watching the banquet in 2001 when there were so many things done to honor Earnhardt after his death and seeing the pain on Richard’s face was hard to watch. I felt as though I was invading the man’s privacy, along with Jr’s during that event. As you said in your article, other than Earnhardt’s family, RC loss was immense and personal and if he is OK with the decision, then it’s fine with me.

    Austin Dillon will make his own memories in the 3 car, but that doesn’t affect the way fans of Earnhardt will feel and that is understandable as well.

  9. Jesse Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 10:47 am

    I can’t think of a nicer person in racing than Richard Childress, these are the people that built Nascar, the ones who worked so hard to make it in this sport and that’s what’s killing Nascar today. Oh we all know that Austin had that silver spoon when he was born, but this is Richard’s right to put his grandson and that number on the track.

  10. Bob Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Change the style of the number, don’t put it on a black car and let the kid create his own image. If you don’t then he will be compared to Dale his whole career.

  11. Ozzie Altman Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 11:47 am

    #3 - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race Winners:
    Dale Earnhardt – 67 times (1984-2000 for car owner Richard Childress)
    Junior Johnson – 9 times (1962-64 for car owner Ray Fox)
    Paul Goldsmith – 5 times (1953-58 for car owner Smokey Yunick)
    David Pearson – 3 times (1961 for car owners John Masoni & Ray Fox)
    Dick Rathman – 3 times (1954 for car owner John Ditz)
    Buck Baker – 2 times (1964 for car owner Ray Fox)
    Buddy Baker – 2 times (1967-68 for car owner Ray Fox)
    Ricky Rudd – 2 times (1983 for car owner Richard Childress)
    Fireball Roberts – 1 time (1959 for car owner Jim Stephens)
    Charlie Glotzbach – 1 time (1971 for car owner Richard Howard)

  12. mrclause Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Who really doesn’t want to see the #3 on the track, in cup racing for a win? Haven’t we been without it long enough. Think Dillon really needs to be crucified for having been given that number? Maybe you should be thinking of the pressure on his young shoulders being his first year in cup and knowing he has to have the finishes that people expect from the #3. Why do you think Jr declined to run that number?

    The Dillon’s may have been fortunate enough to have been born with Richard Childress as their Grandfather, but, what they have now is due to their talent and effort. Even as his grandchildren, Richard would not have supported them as he has without results. Both these young men have earned, in many ways, what Richard has offered them. He believes in them enough to place the future of RCR on their abilities and Richard is far from being a stupid man.

  13. Doug Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    It’s just a number. It is the driver who is important. Remember the driver not the number.

  14. old nascar Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    the Dale Sr. fans act like he is God and that the # 3 is their Shrine.
    More than one driver has driven a car using the # 3 and the 43 , 48 , 24 , 21 , 11, 8 , 88, ect

  15. jo-jr Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    It is not about the #3 car back on the track, it is about who is driving it!! I do not like that , kid, with, the cocky, ways, and that silly cowboy hat! I think, since dale jr, has given his so-called o.k. he will loose, a lot of his fans. Ihave been a fan of jr, since he started at myrtle beach, and have voted for him , every day for the mpfv, but I will no longer vote for him or be a fan!!! He is a driver , like the rest, afraid to say, what he really thinks! oh,well, nascar is dead anway, these driver are so snotty, they don’t want to be bothered , at even smilling, at the fans!

  16. Jay Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    First, have to wholeheartedly agree with the point made above about the stylized 3. It’s one thing to re-use the number, but re-using it in it’s exact format as Dale ran - tacky to say the least. That goes way beyond just using a 3 on a cup car again.
    I think that this, like most things, can be tracked back to money, especially in this situation. Sponsorship remains hard to come by, Childress has run only 3 cars for years now due to lack of funding. Bud & others left with Kevin (good for them). If you’re RC & you’re trying to sell sponsorship for a rookie kid that may or may not do anything noteworthy in a cup car, which was no doubt the situation here recently, how about dangling a stylized “3″ in front of their faces… I’d be willing to bet that sponsorship $ had everything in the world to do with this situation, Childress had a gold mine lying around on the shelf that he wasn’t using out of respect for his friend… until it could help him get $ millions in sponsorship for his grandson. That’s what this was about, if respect was truly the largest factor here, Childress would never have run that number, period. Given the choice, what number would you rather be out shopping to million dollar sponsors - the 29 or the legendary stylized 3? The 3 has a much, much greater market value, and it costs Childress nothing (except his honor as a person) to sell it’s use off to the highest bidder.
    Regarding Dale Jr being OK with it, Dale Jr has always appeared to be a kind, respectful person. What kind of “objection” would anyone expect him to have? Even if he was way against it (I doubt he is), he would not say so, or at least not publicly, he knows a lot more about the business than to do that. Sure he’s going to say he’s OK with it. He does’t own it, and is way smart enough to know how many millions of $ it’s use is good for to Childress.
    They say “if Childress and Dale Jr are OK with it, then there shouldn’t be anyone else (us stupid fans) that have a problem with it.” I wonder what Theresa Earnhardt has to say about it - licensing, souvenirs… bet she’s just thrilled about it! Have you heard or read anywhere that “Theresa is fine with it?”

  17. Chris Fiegler Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Do you think that #3- Austin Dillon,#42- Kyle Larson
    will win a Sprint Cup Series Race in 2014?

  18. Offkilter Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Greg, not sure why you want to dissect the geographical location of the drivers’ name decal. I didn’t say “on” the windows or on the windshield. I said over the windows meaning both sides of the car. I’m not trying to be difficult here, but i’m pretty confident that most anyone that read my post knew what i meant. Mrclause referred to folks wanting to see a #3 on the track. Should we correct him by stating the #’s are on the cars and not the actual race track? :-)

  19. LoneStarJR Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    I can’t wait to see the 3 car back on the track and running in the 20’s race after race. It won’t take long for all the 3 fans to disappear. However, the 3 car will be the “star” during speed weeks in February. NASCAR will be sure that happens to get all possible exposure. Remember Danica last year?

  20. Maverick Says:
    December 17th, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    This issue clearly personifies the biggest problem with the NASCAR fanbase as a whole and why this sport has become the mess that it is: because dumb Earnhardt fans constantly cry over something that happened 13 years ago and refuse to get over it and move on. As long as NASCAR fans continue to live in the past and vote for a guy who has won only once in the past five years just because he’s the son of this dead man, we will never be half of what it used to be!

  21. Canders92 Says:
    December 17th, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    To say Childress just did this for sponsorship is an extraordinary claim, yet far from the truth and offensively false. RC has every right to bring back the number, using the same font that has adorn all his race cars since the 80’s. I find it crazy that people who did not even know Sr. personally are the most vocal about retiring it, when RC and the whole Earnhardt family have given there blessing for a reminder of an integral part of our history to be back out on the track and running for wins. Childress said that is what Dale told him; the #3 car SHOULD be out there running for wins and championships..

    Another thing I find funny in all this is people raising caine over Dillon’s cockiness and cowboy hat. Hmm, I seem to remember another driver matching that description driving a #3 for RC back in the 80’s and 90’s.

  22. jo-jr Says:
    December 18th, 2013 at 11:24 am

    for canders92…about the driver, who wore the cowboy hat and was cocky to….did not like him either!!!
    we, all have our own drivers, we like, that is what nascar use to be! So sad , the way ,nascar use to be, and what it is now!

  23. Sandra Monacelli Says:
    December 20th, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    What do you expect Dale Jr. to say? No, don’t race the number, that was my Dad’s? He gave his life to make sure his drivers won the 500? Come on ppl! Of course Jr. says it’s ok. I totally disagree with the 3 being back. I will never root for it, or any of the RCR drivers again.