Dale Earnhardt Jr. once said that he would never race with the No. 3 car, a number that his dad made his own during his time.
Dale Earnhardt’s legacy does not only run with the racing phenomenon that he was or the number of championships that he won, but also with the No. 3 which became synonymous with him.
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As his son, many expected Dale Jr. to carry on his father’s legacy, including his number. However, having raced with the No. 3 car Subway Nationwide Series 250 in Daytona Beach back in 2010 and also winning the race, Dale Jr. promised that he would never use the number again. Back then, he said:
“I’ll never do it [again]. I’ll never rethink it. I’ll never consider it,” Earnhardt said during his post-race press conference that night. “I think it’s important for everybody to know that’s as concrete as it gets. I enjoyed it, but it’s hard for me. It’s a balancing act between the public and me and my own feelings. It was real emotional, preparing for it and putting it together.”
However, having run Sun Drop No. 3 in the CARS Tour race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in August and expected to run the Bass Pro Shops throwback No. 3 at Florence in the South Carolina 400, Dale Jr. found himself with some explaining to do to use this number.
“I think for me, the Late Model Stock Car is a bit removed from the giant spotlight of NASCAR, and the Cup and Xfinity Series,” Earnhardt told Racing America. “I didn’t want to really look like an opportunist, someone that is taking advantage of the legacy of what dad built with that number but I ran the number in the Late Model Stock Series and the Xfinity Series.
“So when we came back and ran the Late Model Stock at Wilkesboro and with Sun Drop, that was my car, you know? That was more me than dad, so I had a lot of comfort and no worries about that.”
Dale Jr. drove the No. 3 back when he was younger in his initial Late Model Stock period. And he added that running at the Late Model Stock with No. 3 feels more like his car than “taking advantage of the legacy of what dad built with that number”.