Earnhardt Jr. says Austin Dillon OK to drive No. 3 in Cup

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Winston-Salem Journal) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. thinks it would be great to see his father’s No. 3 back in the Sprint Cup Series.

With Richard Childress getting closer to bringing back the famous car number with grandson Austin Dillon driving the car, Earnhardt reiterated his feelings on having another driver race the No. 3 in Cup for the first time since his father died on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

Dillon, one of two Childress grandchildren in NASCAR racing (brother Ty Dillon competes in the Trucks series), has used the number throughout his Nationwide and NASCAR Trucks Series career. Childress has said only a member of his family or Earnhardt’s family will use the slanted 3 that Earnhardt made famous.

“He drove the 3 in dirt racing, he drove the 3 in the Truck series and the Nationwide Series, he has earned the right to run that number as long as he wants,” Earnhardt said at Daytona International Speedway.

“It could have been anybody, but it was Austin.… That’s his number (if) he wants to run. It’s not really fair to deny somebody that opportunity.”

Childress has said an overwhelming majority of fans have said that they would like Dillon to race the number.

“I think it would be great,” Earnhardt said. “It was an iconic number for my father and it means a lot to a lot of his fans.

“But this sport really doesn’t retire numbers and all the numbers have history tied to them for several different reasons and the 3 is no different.”

NASCAR assigns numbers to the teams, but it traditionally allows teams to keep the same car number every year. Childress continues to ask for a No. 3 to be assigned to him but does not use it.

“I’m OK with it,” Earnhardt said. “I know that might not be the way some people feel. I’m sure it’s a minority that feels that way.

“A lot of people will be telling Austin positive things about it.”