Dec 11, 2013, 12:44 PM EST
NASCAR’s worst-kept secret is finally official. Austin Dillon will move up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2014 with Richard Childress Racing, and he’s bringing back the No. 3 to Cup for the first time since 2001.
No driver – not even Dale Earnhardt Jr. – has raced with the No. 3 in Cup since Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s fatal accident in the 2001 Daytona 500.
Still, the majority of this morning’s press conference to confirm the news to say that after 13 years, it was time.
“I know in my heart that Dale Earnhardt is smiling down,” Childress said.
Childress has held onto the number rights for the No. 3 since 2001, but hasn’t been challenged on its use. Only family will have the opportunity to race it in NASCAR’s top level, Childress explained.
“We held the number. I’ve been paying NASCAR for it. Bill (France) Jr. said we may have to give it up if someone wanted it, but we weren’t challenged,” Childress said. “It would have to be an Earnhardt or one of the Childress family that we’d put in the 3. Unless I get Jeffrey Earnhardt, it won’t be in Trucks. For Austin to go out and do what he’s did with that number proves it’s time. The first time I put out the idea of running the 3, support was around 80-85 percent, then after a day, it went to 90. It was time. It was Austin’s choice.”
Dillon, too, understands the significance and heritage of running the 3. He has the opportunity both to create new memories and rekindle old ones.
“It’s a huge responsibility,” he said. “I’ve been put in by my grandfather, and he’s been great to push me in right direction and handle things the right now. Everyone knows who made this number famous. We feel like, with bringing it back, and working with RCR, it is going to be special. I feel fortunate, and I want to run well. I want to set high goals and maintain those.”
Dillon, 23, replaces Kevin Harvick, as Harvick leaves RCR after 13 years to move onto Stewart-Haas Racing. With the driver change comes the number change, back to 3 from the 29 Harvick ran for the entirety of his career there. Dillon will work with crew chief Gil Martin, who said he felt “a little bit of rejuvenation” with this news.
Dillon made sure to ask the right people, from Earnhardt Jr. through to RCR veterans like Danny “Chocolate” Myers and J.R. Rhodes, for their thoughts and approval. He earned it.
Alas, Dillon enters the seat as a champion. He won the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, despite not winning a race, and also took home the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title. In 13 Sprint Cup starts, Dillon has a best finish of 11th at Michigan in June 2013 in a fourth RCR car.
Dow Chemical and Cheerios will split the role of primary sponsor. Dow has been involved with many of NASCAR’s products, but not directly as a primary sponsor. Cheerios enters its eighth year with RCR in 2014, and 17th in the sport in total.
Childress also confirmed Brian Scott, Ty Dillon and Brendan Gaughan will run in the team’s three-car Nationwide program with all entries full-time. RCR will not field a truck in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and its equipment has been sold to Gallagher Motorsports.
Childress later recalled a story about how Austin wanted the 3 to begin with, when he and Ty were first growing up.
“When Ty called me and said, ‘We want to go racing,’ that was the most expensive call I’ve ever had,” Childress joked. “When I asked what number he wanted Ty said, ‘I want the number 2, ’cause my dad drove it.’ I asked, Austin, he says ‘I want the number 3.’ I say, ‘Austin, you know it’s Dale’s number.’ He knew it then. It made me proud.”
Photo Credit: Richard Childress Racing
Dec 22, 2014, 6:02 PM EST
The big-name a cappella group will carry on one of the 500’s greatest traditions next May.
Dec 22, 2014, 5:22 PM EST
Sergio Marchionne: “I think 2015 is going to be a reconstitution year.”
Dec 22, 2014, 4:50 PM EST
Jimmie Johnson not only fell short of his seventh Sprint Cup championship in 2014, he also recorded the worst single-season finish in his Cup career.
Dec 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
1.33-mile concrete oval outside the Music City has not hosted major auto racing since 2011.
Dec 22, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
Truex’s first year with Furniture Row Racing was largely disappointing.
Dec 22, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
Ambrose narrowly missed clinching a Chase berth after his epic battle at the Glen with A.J. Allmendinger.
Dec 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
A quick roundup of who’s where at the moment in Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000.
Dec 22, 2014, 11:19 AM EST
IMSA’s Scot Elkins joins MRTI as race director.
Dec 22, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
The New Year’s Eve IndyCar is revealed.
Dec 22, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
In interview, Carl Edwards sets some high goals for himself in first year with JGR.
Dec 22, 2014, 9:29 AM EST
Bullins up to the Cup level as crew chief of Blaney’s No. 21.
Dec 21, 2014, 8:00 PM EST
Junior speaks highly, already, of new crew chief Greg Ives.
Dec 21, 2014, 6:30 PM EST
Ex-Sauber driver Adrian Sutil calls out F1 pay-driver situation, although it could just be a case of sour grapes.
Dec 21, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
A number of tweaks are coming for the global sports car racing series.
Dec 21, 2014, 4:58 PM EST
Going back to his dirt track roots, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished eighth in the fifth annual Great Clips Battle at the Center in DuQuoin, Ill., on Saturday.
Dec 21, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
The XFINITY Series driver for Richard Childress Racing marries girlfriend Haley Carey.
UPDATED — Highway to Hell(cat): Owner wrecks 707-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat one hour after buying it
Dec 21, 2014, 2:54 PM EST
With just 40 less horsepower than a 2015 Sprint Cup car, the new Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is VERY powerful. One new Hellcat owner, who bought it just one hour earlier, found out the hard way about all that power.
Dec 21, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
The Outlaw takes on the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.
Dec 21, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
Vickers made his full-time return to Sprint Cup action in 2014, which in itself was a victory.
Dec 21, 2014, 12:26 PM EST
Paul Menard had a decent season at times in 2014, but fell short of making the Chase in the final qualifying race.
Video from NASCAR America
- Ferrari chairman expects another tough season in 2015 0
- Carl Edwards: “I plan on winning 10 races and the championship” 3
- NASCAR: Dale Jr. expects even more performance in 2015 1
- UPDATED — Highway to Hell(cat): Owner wrecks 707-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat one hour after buying it 53
- John Force like you’ve never seen him: ‘Papa John’ the grandfather (video) 0
- Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick Jr., has ‘secret’ F4 test 3
- Report: The Sprint Experience will not return in 2015 4