From tragic to magic.
In a blink of an eye, or over a decade plus depending on how you view it, the number 3 is back at Daytona. Back where it belongs. On a racetrack. Going fast.
When Austin Dillon took the poll today driving that iconic number it showed exactly why I thought it was the right time and the right man to bring the number back. I’m not talking about Dillon. I’m talking about Richard Childress.
Richard Childress knows in his heart of heats the right and honorable thing to do when it comes to honoring Dale Earnhardt. Before Earnhardt made the #3 his own, piddly little drivers like Junior Johnson and Buddy Baker and Cotton Owens put their stamp on it. Earnhardt added to it. Just like Dillon now gets that chance.
The saga of the number 3 is well documented and we don’t need to recount it here. It has become an emotionally charged topic in NASCAR for many fans. In a sport where we don’t have jerseys to retire or teams to do the honor really, this became a hot-button topic for fans wishing to honor Dale Earnhardt any and all ways possible. At first I bought into the idea of retiring the number. I didn’t like the fact the #43 was still out there, but I got it from a family stand-point.
As the years have gone by though I realized the best way to honor someone is to make their legacy prominent and permanent. Instead of sticking a jersey in the rafters, put it on the back of a player who deserves to carry on in the tradition of the folks who made it famous. Instead of relegating the “3” to specials on Fox Sports 1 and Dave Despain documentaries ( God, I love those ) put it on the track!
Let dads and moms explain to their kids why the number matters so much. Let that number continue to be a special part of the Childress family. Let that number be even more significant now than before Earnhardt.
Ya. That’s right. The number “3” will only grow in stature and meaning if Austin Dillon is the kind of driver and man we think he just may be. I’m not talking wins here either.
The fans of Dale Earnhardt need to embrace the idea that Dale was part of the sport, not the sport. He helped it grow he didn’t start it. Dale Earnhardt benefited just as much from what went before him as Austin Dillon will by carrying the massive weight of that little number.
So, is it time for the “3” to be back in NASCAR? Damn right. It is past time.
Let that number go fast again!