Little E Speaks On The No 3

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Friday he doesn’t want to see the No. 3 retired from the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, but that doesn’t mean he wants to use it, either.

Earnhardt Jr. appeared at a press conference at Phoenix International Raceway announcing his two-race association in the Busch Series with Richard Childress Racing for 2002. Junior will drive an Oreo-sponsored No. 3 in the Busch race at Daytona in February, and then a Nutter Butter No. 3 in the Busch race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in May.

RCR will prepare and test the car, while Dale Earnhardt Inc. will pit it in the two races.

If you’re looking for a future Earnhardt Jr./No. 3 connection, don’t.

“My father did a lot for the No. 3, but to him and me, the No. 8 has more significance to us,” Earnhardt Jr. said of his current Winston Cup number. “My grandfather ran the number, and my father ran the number for several, several years. I know what my father went through to get the number so I can use it in the Winston Cup Series, so I’m going to hang on to it.

“To be able to work with Richard Childress, it’s something I’ve thought about and wondered whether it would ever happen. I’m probably going to be driving the 8 car for years and years and years, but here’s a chance for us to work together.”

Someone else can use the No. 3 if they want, Earnhardt Jr. said, and it doesn’t have to be retired.

“I don’t think so,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I don’t think it’s fair to Richard Petty because they didn’t retire the 43. If there is a number to be retired, that would probably be the one. That ain’t fair.

“If somebody were to come out next year and be driving the No. 3 car, I’d be a little bit sad about it, but I wouldn’t hold any grudges toward anybody who wanted to run the number. Everybody’s probably going to, out of respect, wait a few years. If it comes back, it comes back.

“I don’t know if I’m looking forward to it, but I’m curious as to when it’ll happen.”

Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t have to be curious about working with Childress any more. Earnhardt drove for RCR for many years, making the black No. 3 famous. When Earnhardt was killed in the Daytona 500 in February, the No. 3 went in mothballs.

Childress wants to keep ownership of it but not use it, and he said he hopes an announcement can be made in Atlanta about the No. 3. Meanwhile, he was thrilled to have Earnhardt Jr. in one of his cars.

“I’ve always said if we run a 3, I’d want to see an Earnhardt in it,” Childress said. “Dale Jr. has taken the 8 and run with it. The 8 is Dale Jr., and the 3 was Dale Sr. To be able to bring the 3 back and have an Earnhardt in it is really special.

“It’s just great to see an Earnhardt back in the 3 car. This is something that Dale would want us to do. He’d be proud to see this.”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2001

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