Skip to content

NASCAR Nation must give Austin Dillon a chance to make his own legacy

Dec 11, 2013, 1:28 PM EDT

Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 300 - Qualifying Getty Images

As a young boy growing up, I watched a lot of NASCAR on Sunday afternoons and I always pulled for Dale Earnhardt in the famous Richard Childress Racing No. 3 car.

I suppose I was drawn to the whole attitude that both he and that number represented – a tough, determined and strong attitude, no matter the obstacles they faced on the track.

When you’re a 13-year-old boy, you’re subconsciously looking for things you can emulate and the whole “never give up” mystique that Earnhardt and the No. 3 had was something I latched on to. I’m sure millions more felt the same way as I did, and for a much longer time as well.

It’s been 12 years since we lost the seven-time Sprint Cup champion at the 2001 Daytona 500, and with that sad event, the No. 3 also disappeared from NASCAR’s top series. It seemed like that was the right thing.

For so many people, Earnhardt was their knight and the No. 3 was the crest he carried into battle every weekend across the short tracks and superspeedways of the land.

But now, another knight has emerged to bring that crest back.

To the credit of Childress, he has maintained his promise that only a member of either his or Earnhardt’s family would race the No. 3 again in Sprint Cup. And so, the number has now been passed to 23-year-old Austin Dillon, Childress’ grandson and the reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion.

“It’s a huge responsibility,” Dillon said today at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Everybody knows who made this number famous. With my grandfather and their friendship, they were able to build something great that will never be touched.

“But we feel like that bringing it back…It’s going to be special. I feel like we’ve put in a lot of hard work and effort and the shop, and we’re prepared for everything that’s to come.”

As for Childress, he knows that today’s news won’t go over well with some of the more fervent fans in NASCAR’s base that either believe the No. 3 should not be used again or that Dillon is somehow not worthy of it.

But in his mind, he believes that Dillon will be up to the challenge – and that Earnhardt would be happy to see the No. 3 hit the track again.

“I know in my heart today, as I sit here, [that] Dale Earnhardt is smiling down,” said Childress. “He would want to see this 3 [on-track]. He didn’t ever want to see this go away.

“I felt it was the thing to do right after Daytona, and I know today that he’s accepting this highly. I knew him that well.”

Both Austin and his brother, Ty, have raced the No. 3 in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series in recent years, and Austin has won titles in both of those categories while carrying it on the side of his machine.

Now, he’ll carry it as he sets out to claim Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors in 2014. But perhaps more importantly, he’s also setting out to create his own stellar legacy with the No. 3.

And that’s something everyone needs to let him do. NASCAR Nation will surely be tempted to compare Dillon to Earnhardt, but at this point in time especially, such comparisons are utterly ridiculous to make.

Dillon currently has just 13 Cup starts under his belt and will need time to find his way in the series. A situation such as this will always bring pressure – and that’s something Dillon has accepted whole-heartedly – but to heap an inordinate amount of that on his shoulders is not doing him any favors.

This much needs to be recognized: Dillon will never be “The Intimidator.” His tale will be different. But it’s his to write, and with the talent he has shown through the Trucks and in Nationwide, he’s got an opportunity to make it great in the years ahead.

After all, Dillon is one of just a handful of drivers to have won titles in two of the three NASCAR national series. No one has ever won titles in all three of them.

And something tells me that if Dillon ever wins a Cup title in the No. 3, all of this talk about how he’s not deserving of that number will disappear for good.

“It would mean the world to me,” Dillon said of possibly becoming a Cup champion in the future. “That’s what you set your goal as: To be a Cup champion one day…From being a little kid, that’s what you want to do is run at this level and then have a chance at a championship.

“I believe RCR will give us every ounce of effort we need to win championships, and we’ll build on our experience and look forward to that.”

In the meantime, we need to take a step back, resist snap judgments, and let his story be written.

Latest Posts
  1. It’s official: Marcos Ambrose will return to Australia to race V8 Supercars for Roger Penske

    Sep 14, 2014, 8:52 PM EDT

    Marcos Ambrose (left), along with NASCAR president Mike Helton. (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — One day after announcing he would not be returning to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2015, Marcos Ambrose made it official that he’s going home to his native Australia to and race in the V8 Supercars series for Roger Penske.

  2. Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tangle in wreck at Chicago — but it’s all good

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:48 PM EDT

    (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. – Oh, how we’d love to be a bug on the wall when Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. get home after Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

  3. Jeff Gordon makes strong ‘Drive For Five’ start, also has high praise for Kyle Larson in Chase opener

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:18 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) AP

    JOLIET, Ill. – In the first race of the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Jeff Gordon took the first step in his “Drive For Five” – and put his best foot forward.

  4. How the 16 drivers fared in Sunday’s Chase opener

    Sep 14, 2014, 6:17 PM EDT

    (Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. – Sunday’s opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup was good for 12 of the 16 contestants, as they dominated the top-15 finishers in the MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. But four others struggled and find themselves in a hole heading into the second race of the Chase.

  5. Keselowski surges between Harvick, Larson to win Chase opener at Chicagoland

    Sep 14, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    (Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — While Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick were jousting for the lead, Keselowski slipped up in-between them and then sailed right through with 15 laps left to win Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400, the opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway.

  6. Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon lead Chase opener at halfway point

    Sep 14, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT

    keselowski joliet 2014 Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. – With 134 of the scheduled 267 laps complete, Brad Keselowski leads the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

  7. Even with new crew, Kevin Harvick’s pit road problems continue

    Sep 14, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    Harvick pit crew richmond 2014 Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — Kevin Harvick made a celebrated trade of pit crews with Tony Stewart for Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 due to numerous mistakes and errors committed by his pit crew during the first 26 races of the regular season. Unfortunately, Harvick’s pit road jinx continued with the new crew.

  8. For 16 Sprint Cup drivers, the time is here: ready, set, Chase

    Sep 14, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT

    Sprint Cup trophy 2014 Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — If Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 plays out the way folks in the garage were talking Sunday morning, there’s going to be at least a few surprises both in the course of the race and potentially in the outcome in the opening event of the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

  9. Kyle Busch starts Truck race ticked-off, only to end up in victory lane at Chicagoland

    Sep 13, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT

    (Photo: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. – A ticked-off Kyle Busch is the most dangerous kind of Kyle Busch. Dejected after coming up short in the Nationwide Series race earlier in the afternoon, the younger Busch brother rallied back to win Saturday night’s Lucas Oil 225 Camping World Truck Series race.

  10. Joey Logano: ‘We’re ready’ to win Sprint Cup championship

    Sep 13, 2014, 8:09 PM EDT

    (Photo: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — Joey Logano is ready to go from wanna-be champion to doing the real thing in this season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

  11. DeJoria (FC), Enders-Stevens (PS), Todd (TF) and Krawiec (PSM) are the ones to beat in NHRA race in Charlotte

    Sep 13, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Alexis DeJoria is No. 1 at Charlotte heading into Sunday's eliminations. (Photo courtesy NHRA) Alexis DeJoria is No. 1 at Charlotte heading into Sunday's eliminations. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

    Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock), J.R. Todd (Top Fuel) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will enter Sunday’s Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals as the No. 1 qualifiers at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.

  12. Kevin Harvick outsmarts Kyle Busch, earns third career NNS win at Chicagoland Speedway

    Sep 13, 2014, 6:40 PM EDT

    (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. – What looked like yet another almost certain Kyle Busch win on Saturday literally went up in smoke, as Kevin Harvick rallied to earn his third career Nationwide Series victory at Chicagoland Speedway.

  13. Kyle Busch ready to claim his ‘second’ Sprint Cup championship

    Sep 13, 2014, 5:26 PM EDT

    (Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. – Kyle Busch believes he can win his ‘second’ Sprint Cup championship in 2014. Wait a minute, when did he win his first? Did we miss something somewhere?

  14. Carl Edwards leads final Sprint Cup practice, Keselowski up to speed, Danica 5th-fastest

    Sep 13, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Kesewlowski Chicagoland 2014 Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — Carl Edwards was fastest in Saturday’s Sprint Cup happy hour practice, but Brad Keselowski was the bigger story, finding the speed he’s been lacking up to now. Also, Danica Patrick was fifth-fastest.

  15. Marcos Ambrose decision to leave RPM, NASCAR due to family, desire to return to Australia

    Sep 13, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT

    marcos ambrose chicagoland 2014 Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — Marcos Ambrose cited being homesick for his native Australia as well as family concerns as the main reasons he’s leaving Richard Petty Motorsports and NASCAR at the end of this season.

  16. Brian Scott holds off Ryan Blaney to earn 3rd NNS pole of season

    Sep 13, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT

    (Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — Shortly after Richard Childress Racing teammate Paul Menard posted the fastest speed in Saturday morning’s Sprint Cup practice, teammate Brian Scott went out and earned the pole for Saturday afternoon’s Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

  17. Romain Grosjean hopeful of points at Singapore GP

    Sep 13, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Germany - Qualifying Getty Images

    Frenchman is confident that Lotus will be in better shape than it was at Monza.

  18. Sprint Cup practice speeds slower Saturday morning at Chicagoland, Paul Menard tops at 188.772 mph

    Sep 13, 2014, 12:23 PM EDT

    paul menard richmond 2 2014 Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — Paul Menard shot to the top of the speed charts during the first of two practice sessions for the Sprint Cup drivers Saturday morning at Chicagoland Speedway.

  19. Roberto Merhi dominates Formula Renault 3.5 race in Hungary

    Sep 13, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    © Renault Sport © Renault Sport

    Spaniard dominates at the Hungaroring, strengthening his case for an F1 seat with Caterham.

Video from NASCAR America

Johnson's quest for a record 7th title
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Johnson (1816)
  2. K. Busch (1341)
  3. J. Gordon (1206)
  4. J. Logano (1204)
  5. D. Suarez (1126)