On Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked what he thought if three or four years down the road Austin Dillon, who will drive the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series next season, wanted to move to the Cup series and drive the No. 3.
A No. 3 car has not appeared in a Cup series race since Dale Earnhardt Sr. was killed in a last-lap wreck in the 2001 Daytona 500.
Dillon, the grandson of Earnhardt Sr.'s team owner Richard Childress, won the 2011 Truck series championship on Friday night.
"I just look at it differently. I don’t look at the numbers tied to drivers as much as just the history of the number. The number is more of a bank, you know, that you just deposit history into. It doesn’t really belong to any individual. Austin’s ran that number and you can’t really deny him the opportunity to continue to run it. It just wouldn’t be fair," Earnhardt Jr. said.
"Dad (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) did great things. He was a great ambassador for the sport and we’re still as a whole, reaping the benefits of all he accomplished and what he did that put us in front of a lot of people. But even before that, the number was Richard’s. Richard drove it. And someone else drove it before then. There’s a lot of guys in the fifties and sixties that ran that number with success. So the number is really kind of like a bank and you deposit history into and they don’t really belong to the individuals.
"It’s iconic when you put the colors and the style with it; it’s a little bit iconic to the sport. Austin is a good kid. He seems to have a great appreciation for what’s happening to him and what’s going on around him. And I would be happy if he wanted to keep doing that. He kind of had to know when he first started to run that number if he got this far into the deal, he would have to cross a few bridges like that and that was a tough decision I guess at first to start running the number for him; knowing what kind of pressures he might face down the road. But I think it would be fine by me for him to do that. I think that it’s got to get back on the race track one of these days.
"It just can’t be gone forever you know?”