Earnhardt ready to see famed No. 3 car on track

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HOMESTEAD, FLA. (AP) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ready to see the famed No. 3 car back on the track.

Car owner Richard Childress asked Earnhardt if it would be OK for his grandson, Austin Dillon, to drive one of NASCAR’s most revered numbers in the Nationwide Series next season. Earnhardt had no problem with it, and said Saturday he wouldn’t mind if Dillon eventually drove the No. 3 in the Sprint Cup Series.

Junior’s late father, seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, made the number famous while driving for Childress.

“I just look at it differently,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I don’t look at the numbers tied to drivers as much as just the history of the number. The number is more of a bank, you know, that you just deposit history into. It doesn’t really belong to any individual. Austin’s ran that number and you can’t really deny him the opportunity to continue to run it. It just wouldn’t be fair.

“Dad did great things. He was a great ambassador for the sport and, we’re still as a whole, reaping the benefits of all he accomplished and what he did that put us in front of a lot of people.”

Childress drove the No. 3 before Earnhardt. Childress “retired” the number following Earnhardt’s fatal crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

Dillon drove the No. 3 in the Truck Series this season and won the championship Friday night. Earnhardt Jr., as a tribute to his father, took the No. 3 to Victory Lane in the Nationwide Series at Daytona in July 2010. He said afterward he didn’t plan to drive the number again.

But he’s fine with others driving it, especially Dillon.

“There’s a lot of guys in the `50s and `60s that ran that number with success,” Earnhardt said. “It’s iconic when you put the colors and the style with it; it’s a little bit iconic to the sport. Austin is a good kid. He seems to have a great appreciation for what’s happening to him and what’s going on around him. And I would be happy if he wanted to keep doing that.

“He kind of had to know when he first started to run that number if he got this far into the deal, he would have to cross a few bridges like that and that was a tough decision I guess at first to start running the number for him, knowing what kind of pressures he might face down the road. But I think it would be fine by me for him to do that. I think that it’s got to get back on the race track one of these days. It just can’t be gone forever, you know.”

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TANDEM BREAKUP? NASCAR is trying to break up two-car drafts that have become prevalent at high-banked tracks such as Daytona and Talladega. It might not be easy to do.

NASCAR held a test at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday, looking for ways to make tandem drafting more difficult before next year’s season opener.

“We would prefer to eliminate tandem racing in the manner it exists today,” NASCAR chairman Brian France said. “There is no question about that. We are working on rolling back the clock to traditional Daytona, Talladega races. We’ll have to see how that goes. I think the majority of fans would like to see that, and so would we.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of the drivers who participated in the test, said it’s easier said than done.

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