The last time a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racecar sported the No. 3 at Talladega Superspeedway, it was sitting in the track’s coveted Victory Lane. It was the fall of 2000 when the great Dale Earnhardt, driving for Richard Childress Racing, pulled off one of the most exciting victories in NASCAR lore. If Austin Dillon has his way in the May 4 Aaron’s 499, it won’t be the last time that famed number is in Talladega’s Winner’s Circle.
“I would love to get my first Cup win at Talladega,” said Dillon, a NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie-of-the-year candidate who pilots the No. 3 for his grandfather Richard Childress. This is the first year the car number has been on the track since Earnhardt’s untimely death in February of 2001. “There is a lot of RCR history at Talladega and it would be an unbelievable feeling to win there.
“My grandfather really got his start at Talladega, too, by competing in the first race there as a driver (in 1969). He has a love for the track; it’s one of his favorites. I think racing there is fun, and when you talk about Talladega, it gets everyone excited."
Earnhardt’s victory was dramatic to say the least that fateful day in 2000, as he came from 18th to win in the final five laps. It was his 10th triumph at NASCAR’s Most Competitive track and set the Talladega record for most wins. He was the master of drafting, and his prowess on the track helped Childress become the track’s all-time winning car owner
“The legend of Dale has lived on for a long time and is going to continue to live on forever,” said Dillon, who has driven the No. 3 in every racing division he has competed in since childhood. “Dale Earnhardt is not just famous because of the number. He was a hero in everybody’s mind, including myself.
One driver who is happy to see the No. 3 back on the track is five-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will also be a favorite in the Aaron’s 499. “I’m glad it’s back,” he exclaims
“The 3 is special to all of us,” admits Childress, whose No. 3 cars have won nine times at Talladega, all with Earnhardt behind the wheel. “I think it’s special because Austin—our family—is in the car.
If he can avoid the “Big One” and come across the finish line first, it would be extra special knowing it was at Talladega Superspeedway. After all it’s a special place to Childress, whose Cup start in 1969 at Talladega propelled him into being a full-time driver. No one could have guessed after that 23rd place finish that Richard Childress Racing would go on to rule NASCAR’s biggest and baddest track. Is Dillon up for the challenge to continue the RCR legacy of winning at the 2.66-mile venue?
“I think we can,” says Dillon, who will make his second Sprint Cup start at Talladega in the Aaron’s 499. Dillon made his Talladega Sprint Cup debut last October substituting for an injured Tony Stewart and was running third until a last-lap accident. “Talladega is a place where you have to really mentally just stay in the game the entire race. It is a place that grinds on you because you are running four-wide and side-by-side. There is no room for error. It’s an intense ride, and you are waiting for the ‘Big One’ and hoping you aren’t in it. Then you can focus on the finish line."
Fans wanting to see if the No. 3 car returns to Victory Lane at Talladega have many incredible ticket packages to choose from. Those include:
- 2-day Grandstand tickets starting at $50.00 (Saturday-Sunday, May 3-4)
- 2-day Tower tickets starting at $100.00 (Saturday-Sunday, May 3-4)
- $50 off regular pricing for Kids 12 and Under in Grandstands & Towers on Sunday, including FREE tickets in the Gadsden & Talladega Grandstands (2-day ticket package sections)
- Kids 12 and Under FREE in all sections on Saturday, May 3