NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
ust to be clear, Austin Dillon doesn’t
get to drive the legendary No. 3 Richard
Childress Racing Chevrolet in the
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next year
because he’s the team owner’s grandson.
Running that storied number in
stock-car racing’s top tier is a privilege that
has to be worked for and earned, whoever
you are – and Dillon’s earned the right
because of what he’s already achieved in
NASCAR’s feeder series. In 2011, he won
a Camping World Truck Series title with
the No. 3 on the side of his Richard
Childress Racing Chevrolet Silverado.
Then, in 2013, he triumphed in one of the
most competitive Nationwide Series title
battles ever in a No. 3 RCR Chevy Camaro.
For Childress, the magic and prestige
of the number predates the late, great
Dale Earnhardt winning six of his seven
NASCAR Sprint Cup titles in an RCR Chevy
with No. 3 on the side. Childress raced
with that same number when he was an
independent owner/driver and there was
a good reason for him choosing it.
“I knew Junior Johnson drove the
No. 3 back in the day,” says Childress,
“and Junior was one of my heroes.”
Now, it’s time for another changing of
the guard, as Dillon will be the first driver
to race the No. 3 in the NASCAR Sprint
Cup Series since Earnhardt’s death in the
2001 Daytona 500.
Dillon’s dramatic 2013 Nationwide
championship – he edged out Sam
Hornish Jr. by just three points – sealed
the deal in his team owner’s mind.
“I think the time is right,” says Childress.
“Austin winning the two championships
helped me make the decision.”
Of course, it also matters that Dillon
idolized his grandfather and Earnhardt.
“As a kid, he was a big Dale Earnhardt
fan,” Childress says of Dillon. “I’ve got
pictures of him in a Goodwrench uniform,
with Chocolate [Myers, Earnhardt’s
long-time gasman] holding him and Dale
holding him. He was just always like that. He
used the No. 3 when he played in the (Little
League) World Series; he used it on his
go-karts… He’s always loved that number
and it’s what he always wanted to use.”
AUSTIN DILLON J
A black Richard Childress
Racing Chevy with No. 3
on its flanks returns to
NASCAR’s headline series
in 2014. Rising star Austin
Dillon will be at the wheel.
WORDS Tom Jensen
MAIN IMAGE Harold Hinson/NASCAR