It’s started again. Richard Childress is talking about bringing the No. 3 back to Cup.
The reason? He says
the fans want it.
Well here’s one fan that doesn’t. And if you don’t either, better let Richard
know now before it’s too late.
Of course the number hasn’t been run in a Cup race since
Dale Earnhardt was killed driving the car in the 2001 Daytona 500. The next time the team ran, it was a white No.
29 car, which Kevin Harvick soon drove to victory at Atlanta in one of the most
emotional races in NASCAR history. At
the time Childress doubted he would ever run the No. 3 again and said if he did
– it wouldn’t be on a black car.
Childress first floated the proposition of returning the No.
3 to the Sprint Cup ranks more than a year ago.
He pointed out the number belonged to Richard Childress Racing and that
he had run the No. 3 himself, keeping the number when he became a car owner and
hiring Earnhardt. He’s also been running
the No. 3 in the Camping World Truck series and Nationwide series for his
grandsons – Austin and Ty Dillon. He
proposed bringing it back when one of them reached the Cup ranks, saying it
would only be used for family – his and Earnhardt’s. His statements caused a flurry of reaction at
the time and nothing much more was said.
Jump ahead to 2013. Ty
will run a No. 3 truck for the entire series and a few races in the No. 33 Nationwide
car. Austin will run the No. 3 car in
the Nationwide series. He’ll also compete in a handful of Cup races,
with an eye on running for Cup rookie of the year in 2014. He’s entered in the No. 33 RCR car for the Daytona
500. During the recent NASCAR media tour,
Childress said he’d heard from a large number of fans who wanted to see the No. 3 back on the track in Cup and that he’s considering it. Of those reaching out to Childress, he said about 85 percent were in favor of bringing the number back.
“Right now we don’t have any plans of running the 3 anytime
in the future,” Childress said. “But who
knows what may happen between now and the next few months. If it’s in the family with Austin and Ty or a
young Earnhardt someday, who knows?
As a grandfather, seems like a lot
of pressure to put on a grandson. Tough
enough breaking into Sprint Cup, let alone trying to live up to Dale Earnhardt’s
legacy. Austin says he’s open to it, but
hopefully not until next year when he runs the full Cup schedule.
Sorry, I’d rather not see it
happen at all.
I know that NASCAR doesn’t retire
numbers. I wish it did. I know Richard Petty brought
back the No. 43. I wish he hadn't. But it was his number and it’s his team. Petty supports bringing back the No. 3. So does Dale Junior.
I know there’s a long list of great
drivers who drove the No. 3 prior to Earnhardt.
In fact you could build a Hall of Fame around those who drove the No. 3:
Junior Johnson, Paul Goldsmith, David Pearson, Buddy and Buck Baker, Ricky Rudd,
Dick Rathmann, Charlie Glotzbach, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Cale Yarborough, Bobby
Johns, Fireball Roberts, Marvin Panch, Bobby Isaac and Fred Lorenzen, just to name a few. The list of car owners is almost as impressive,
including Ray Nichols and Ray Fox. And I
know Earnhardt won his first NASCAR title driving the No. 2.
But to me -- and I suspect many
others -- the No. 3 will always be Earnhardt.
No one else had the success he did in that car, nor the dominating personality that accounted for so much of the growth in the sport. The Yankees had some pretty good ballplayers
wear No. 7, but to me No. 7 will always be
There’s another reason for RCR to bring back the No. 3.
The team went from four to three cars last year after losing sponsorship.
Kevin Harvick has already announced he’s moving to Stewart-Haas Racing
in 2014 and there’s a possibility he could take sponsor Budweiser
with him. Paul Menard’s three-year
family sponsorship at RCR is up at the end of this season and he’s shown a tendency
for jumping from team to team. Jeff
Burton’s contract also is up at the end of 2013, as is Caterpillar, his primary sponsor. Burton hasn’t won in four
years and unless things change drastically, I can’t see why either side would
want to continue the relationship next year.
So at moment, RCR has no veteran drivers and no sponsors under contract
for 2014. Not a very good situation for
a team that didn’t show much in 2012.
Now add the No. 3 into the mix. What sponsor wouldn’t want to be on the side
of the car? It’s why ESPN featured the
No. 3 car last year in its promotions for the Nationwide Series. Sure there might be some sponsor backlash from diehard Earnhardt fans, but it would certainly be the most photographed
car on the track and receive substantial television coverage. The No. 3 also remains number one in die cast
sales and a new No. 3 would only add to that margin,. From a sponsor's standpont, it’s
a no brainer.
Goodwrench? Nope. General Motors has done away with the
brand. AdvoCare is currently on the black No. 3 for the full Nationwide
season. What’s AdvoCare? Good question. According to its web site, “A premier health
and wellness company offering world-class energy, weight-loss, nutrition, and
sports performance products along with a rewarding business opportunity.” Not exactly what I would have in mind for the
return of the No. 3.
I’m sure the No. 3 means more to Childress than anyone else, including the Earnhardt family. I don't believe the decision will come down solely to money. I'm sure he will consider it carefully before making a decision. But if it really is the fans that has Childress
considering bringing back the No. 3, than those of us who disagree need to make our voices heard.
There's no ballot box, but vote No on Prop No. 3 at