Dale Earnhardt Jr. to run the No. 3 once again, in Nationwide

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Proving that the past is never past, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be driving a No. 3, the number his father made immortal, in the July Daytona Nationwide race.

ESPN.com is reporting that as part of an ongoing tribute to the late Earnhardt Sr., Junior will drive the famed No. 3. A press conference with Junior’s own JR Motorsports; Richard Childress Racing, which holds claim to the number 3, and Dale Earnhardt Inc. will take place on April 29, and at that time they’ll unveil the car Junior will drive. (Aside: note that this is bringing Junior and DEI together again. Never thought that would happen, huh?)

The 3 has only run eight times in any of NASCAR’s top three series since the Intimidator’s death in 2001. Junior drove the 3 twice in the Nationwide series in 2002, and Austin Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress, has run the 3 in the truck series twice last year and four times this year. Still, it’s a safe bet that the July Daytona race will draw just a bit more notice than, well, all of the previous eight races put together.

However, this isn’t a complete return to the days of the Intimidator. The No. 3 will not be the iconic black of Dale Sr., according to ESPN.com’s sources. And that’s probably just as well. Earlier this year, we called for NASCAR to retire the No. 3 and keep it retired. And as much as some fans would love to see Earnhardt running under the black 3, Junior himself almost certainly chafes at the idea. Having the name of the Intimidator to live up to is bad enough; driving his car around is asking Junior to completely subvert his own identity.

Still, this is a good gesture, one that I’m sure the fans of both Earnhardts will appreciate.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. to run the No. 3 once again, in Nationwide

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