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In 2001, NASCAR lost one of its greats when legendary Richard Childress Racing driver Dale Earnhardt met his untimely end during a last-lap accident in the Daytona 500. His car, the famed No. 3, has been a topic of discussion in NASCAR circles in the decades since. In 2022, the No. 3 car is now most consistently associated with Austin Dillon, star of USA Network’s upcoming NASCAR reality series “Austin Dillon’s Life in the Fast Lane.”
However, some fans might not know the full connection between Dillon and Earnhardt, as well as the history behind the No. 3 car.
While Earnhardt’s son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., made two appearances in a No. 3 Busch Series car in 2002 and an additional appearance in a No. 3 sponsored by Wrangler in 2010 after his father’s death, the number didn’t appear consistently in national tours until Austin Dillon — grandson of Richard Childress, owner of RCR — took up the No. 3 truck in 2009’s Camping World Truck Series. Austin and his younger brother, Ty, would drive No. 3 cars in lower-level competitions for a few years before Austin began driving the No. 3 full time in the Nationwide Series.
"It’s a huge responsibility," Dillon said of driving the No. 3 in 2013 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, per “NASCAR.” "Everybody knows who made this number famous. With my grandfather and his friendship [with Earnhardt], they were able to build something great that will never be touched.
"But we feel like bringing it back with my grandfather and RCR … it’s going to be special,” he continued. “We’ve put in a lot of hard work and effort at the shop and we’re prepared for everything that’s to come."
While Earnhardt didn’t live through the 2001 three-car crash involving fellow drivers Ken Schrader and Sterling Marlin, his legacy lives on in his long-time friend’s grandson. Fans will be able to see that legacy continue in “Austin Dillon’s Life in the Fast Lane,” premiering on USA Network on June 23.
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