It's official, the No. 3 car is returning! Richard Childress Racing announced last week that Austin Dillon will be driving the car as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie in 2014. What had been suspected for months is now a reality. For the first time since Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s death in 2001, the No. 3 car will race in NASCAR's top division.
Dillon, the grandson of RCR team owner Richard Childress, will race a car number that has been driven by not only Earnhardt, Sr., but by an elite group of other legendary drivers as well.
It didn't take long for many connected within racing, from fans to those working within the sport, to weigh in on the number returning to the track.
Here is what some of them have had to say:
"I think when I see that 3 car on the track, and I see Austin driving it, it's a Childress car, it's going to bring back all kinds of Dale Earnhardt memories - the fun things he did, the crazy things he did, whether it was rattling someone's cage or driving off to victory in the Daytona 500,"
- Darrell Waltrip
"He (Earnhardt) and I had discussed when he retired about what we were going to do with the No. 3. About how he wanted to see the No. 3 car racing for wins in the Cup Series. He wanted to see the No. 3 car racing for championships. So I know today that Dale's smiling down and is proud of this announcement - couldn't be more proud."
- Richard Childress
"Happy for @RCRracing with their big announcement today. Great news for OUR sport!"
- Brad Keselowski on Twitter
And not surprisingly, many of our very own fans had a lot to say as well on social media, even a few days after RCR's announcement.
Here are some of the comments:
"I'm excited to see the No. 3 back on the track. I think Dale Sr. would to."
- Jessica Jarrard
"No this number should be retired! Disappointing, nothing against the driver it isn't his fault."
- Kim McIntyre
"Just a number people. Greats such as Junior Johnson drove the No. 3 others should have the right to as well."
- Stephen Hopkins
"I think if anyone drives with the number 3 it should be Dale Jr. and no one else!"
- Sandy House
"Austin deserves to drive that car! It is his grandfather's number, and yes Earnhardt made it famous and I will love him till the end of time. But I like that they are keeping it in the family and Austin has earned it. It wasn't just handed to him!"
- Kristy Nix
"I've been an Earnhardt fan before he drove the No. 3. This is a legacy sport. The No. 3 was/is Childress' number and Dale made it famous driving for Childress. I think it is great, and fitting, that his grandson will bring the No. 3 back on the tracks!"
- Rienie Newlan
Conversation surrounding the No. 3 evokes passion from everyone within the sport. Many of the sport's greatest drivers, including Earnhardt, Sr., have driven a No. 3 car.
NASCAR Hall of Famers Junior Johnson, Buck Baker, Fireball Roberts and David Pearson each drove a No. 3 car at some point during their careers with Johnson winning the most races among that group, claiming nine victories.
Others to have driven the No. 3 include Paul Goldsmith, Tom Pistone, Marvin Panch, Cale Yarborough, Cotton Owens, Tim Flock, Hershel McGriff, Dick Rathmann, Buddy Baker, Charlie Glotzback, Bobby Isaac, Fred Lorenzen and Ricky Rudd.
So it goes without saying that Dillon is taking on a mantle of heavy expectations.
But as 2014 approaches, it will be very exciting to see how Dillon attacks the burden of living up to the history of the car number of which he will be carrying.