With the 2019 season serving as the 50th anniversary of Richard Childress Racing, we plan to dip into the archives to present the stories of iconic moments, race wins, championships and much more as part of our weekly Throwback Thursday series.
There is no doubt that Richard Childress Racing has a storied history at Daytona International Speedway.
From Richard Childress’ first trip to the facility for a Grand American race in 1969 to his top-10 finish in 1976 to the pole by Ricky Rudd in 1983, the success of Dale Earnhardt all throughout the 1990s, to Kevin Harvick’s Daytona 500 win in 2007.
However, in 2018, third generation racer Austin Dillon wrote his own page in the RCR history books at Daytona by taking the No. 3 Chevrolet back to Victory Lane in the ‘Great American Race.’
“This is so awesome to take the No. 3 car back to Victory Lane,” Dillon said after climbing from the car and celebrating with the crew. “This one is for Dale Earnhardt Sr. and all those (Dale) Sr. fans. I love you guys.”
Just four years earlier, Dillon was making his second Daytona 500 start – his first behind the wheel of the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet – and did so by capturing the pole on qualifying day. Since joining the Cup Series full time in 2014, Dillon’s worst finish in the Daytona 500 was a 19th-place finish in 2017.
When the 60th annual running of the Daytona 500 rolled around in 2018, RCR was celebrating the 20th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s famous victory in the race that eluded him for so long. Prior to the event, Dillon knew it would be something truly special if he could somehow put the No. 3 RCR Chevrolet back in Victory Lane 20 years later.
The victory was no simple task, though. After an incident in the Duel 150-mile qualifying race, Dillon and crew chief Justin Alexander was forced to pull out their back-up car for Sunday’s race. Dillon gave up the 14th starting position and dropped to the rear of the field for the start of the event.
Dillon was able to survive several multi-car incidents all throughout the day and caught a break when the caution flew with just nine laps to go. Restarting the race with seven laps to go, Dillon once again avoided another large wreck that took out 12 cars.
That sent the race into overtime and Dillon held no prisoners over the final laps. Thanks to a huge push from the ECR Engines-powered No. 43 Chevrolet of Darrell Wallace Jr., Dillon made a charge down the backstretch on the final lap to the rear bumper of Aric Almirola. When Almirola tried to make a block, Dillon held his ground and the two made contact, sending the No. 10 spinning.
With clear racetrack ahead of him, Dillon completed the final two corners and led the only lap that mattered that night – the final one.
As the No. 3 Chevrolet took the checkered flag the grandstands erupted and the RCR crew jumped off pit wall to celebrate. Just as Earnhardt had done 20 years prior, Dillon took the No. 3 Chevrolet for a spin through frontstretch grass before celebrating with his team members.
“I said (after) my first win I couldn’t beat it, but this does,” said Dillon. “My grandfather has done everything for me. Everybody knows it. There is a lot of pressure on me to perform, because I’ve had a little bit of everything. But I like that pressure. The same with the No. 3. There is a lot of pressure behind that.
“But I’m willing to take that and go with it. I’m just thankful for all the people that support us along the way Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family for letting us bring this number back,” he said. “It comes full circle. I just can’t thank the Lord enough for this opportunity.”