History - No. 3
As an owner/driver since 1969, Richard Childress saw the changing landscape of NASCAR midway through the 1981 season and put Dale Earnhardt, whose own ride at the time was having its problems, in the RCR No. 3 for the Michigan International Speedway race in August. They earned two top-five and six top-10 finishes in those final 10 races, but Childress felt his equipment wasn’t up to the level that Earnhardt, who won rookie-of-the-year honors in 1979 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 1980, needed. So they parted company at the end of the season, with the understanding they would work to get back together again once Childress felt the performance level of RCR had improved.
The reunion happened in 1984 with Childress and Earnhardt winning two races, earning 22 top-10 finishes and finishing fourth in the point standings. However, there were still some obstacles to overcome. A total of nine blown engines in 1985, despite four victories and an eighth-place finish in the point standings, had Childress questioning the strength of RCR. To his credit, Earnhardt was in for the long haul and the racing world discovered the strength and talent of RCR/Earnhardt the next few seasons.
There were five victories and the first championship in 1986, followed by a modern-day record 11 victories and a second championship in 1987. The team won eight more races and finished third and second in the point standings the next two seasons. There were nine victories and a third championship in 1990, then four victories and the fourth championship in 1991.
They hit a bump in 1992 and, for the only time in their 17 full seasons together, finished out of the top 10 in the point standings in 12th. Shame on those who may have thought the team had run its course because the No. 3 GM Goodwrench team took home 10 winner’s trophies on the way to earning their fifth and sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championships in 1993 and 1994.
While the championships may have stopped, their strength endured with the team winning eight more times and finishing no worse than eighth in the point standings from 1996 through 2000. As a matter of fact, the team’s second-place finish in the 2000 point standings led many to believe the 2001 season held great potential for RCR’s seventh and Earnhardt’s eighth Cup championship.
That fateful day of February 18, 2001 brought the No. 3 to a saddening halt in the Sprint Cup Series for RCR and NASCAR. While the racing world mourned the loss of Earnhardt, the racing continued…minus that iconic No. 3 on the side of a vehicle.
Around the short tracks of the south, a young man by the name of Austin Dillon was racing on dirt and asphalt. His brother, Ty, soon followed and the two started to find victory lanes in all types of race cars.
The boys, the grandsons of Richard and Judy Childress and son of Mike and Tina (Childress) Dillon, worked their way up the racing ranks. Austin would sport the No. 3 as a tribute to his grandfather “because that was my his number” is what he told people along the way.
In 2009, he took to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in a No. 3 Chevrolet. Since then, Austin has driven that number to NCWTS Rookie of the Year Honors in 2010 following it up with a championship the following year. In 2012, he moved to the NASCAR Nationwide Series once again earning Rookie of the Year Honors and following it up with a championship the next season.
His brother Ty started driving the No. 3 in Truck Series competition in 2012 and NNS in 2013 looking for Rookie of the Year honors. To date, the No. 3 has accounted for half of RCR’s 200 NASCAR victories.
With two NASCAR championships to his credit, there was only one place left to go for Austin Dillon in the No. 3 – the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. So, on December 11, 2013 Richard Childress introduced his grandson as the first driver to wheel the iconic No. 3 for RCR in 13 years.
For the first time in 13 years the No. 3 returned to Daytona International Speedway. With Dillon behind the wheel, he put the iconic number on the pole for the Great American Race. In 2014, Ty Dillon captured victory at The Brickyard, becoming the first Nationwide Series regular to win a series race at the famed track.