By Driving No. 3, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Feeding Those Wanting Him To Be Dad

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IApril 26, 2010

For all the NASCAR fans that believe Dale Earnhardt Jr. should be his dad or at least drive like him, they’re finally going to get their wish.

Well, for one night in July that is.

The official announcement will come this Thursday on what would have been Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s 59th birthday. Wife Teresa, son Earnhardt Jr., daughter Kelly, and former car owner/friend Richard Childress will reveal that Earnhardt Jr. is running a No. 3 Wrangler Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series race at Daytona later this year.

The car will be run out of the JR Motorsports stable with a Hendrick Motorsports engine, in a mutual agreement between Richard Childress Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Thanks to NASCAR on FOX broadcaster Darrell Waltrip, this isn't just a rumor.

Earnhardt Jr. confirmed the news Friday at Talladega, saying that instead of waiting for the official announcement, Waltrip sped up the process because of his Twitter page.

On April 22nd Waltrip wrote, “Here’s something that will make you go ‘hum.’ Dale Jr. driving the ‘3’ car in the Nationwide race at Daytona in July, that’s interesting?”

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When asked by the media about the deal Earnhardt Jr. said, “DW sort of blew the lid off of it. On Twitter nonetheless. So kind of ruined our announcement. It’s unfortunate that DW uncovered that and the way it went down because we didn’t want to have to announce it like this.”

Waltrip later apologized saying he had read about the deal on various websites, leaving him under the impression that everyone already knew. Now that they do it’s time to move forward and wait to see what else the parties involved will say on Thursday.

Some fans don’t even care because just the thought of Earnhardt Jr. in a 3 car, even if it won’t be a black one, is a dream come true.

For others it’s just feeding into their imaginations that he’ll one day be behind the wheel his dad’s car in the Sprint Cup Series for Richard Childress Racing. Pretty much picking up where Earnhardt Sr. left off.

As if that would cure all of Earnhardt Jr.’s problems, put him in dad’s car and he should just become the driver Earnhardt Sr. was: win seven championships, 76 races and everyone would be happy.

The way that some make it sound it’s almost like Earnhardt Jr. is entitled to the 3 car and that he should be driving it, because if he isn’t the NASCAR world doesn’t seem right.

Newsflash: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not his father.

He has said as much many times before and has no desire to ever be his father. Besides the fact that those are big shoes to fill, no son wants to forever be in their father’s shadow, whether they were famous or not. The dream is to live their own life and develop their own identity.

“That was his number and not mine,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “He wouldn’t want that – wouldn’t like that at all.”

Another thing that driving the 3 would do is give all the Earnhardt Sr. fans something to hang onto, a longing that’s been there since their hero died in 2001. While they may root for the son since it's the next best thing, it’s not the same as seeing the 3 car back on the track.

Combine this upcoming event with that of Kasey Kahne signing with HMS last week and the conspiracy theorists are out in force.

There’s rumors around the web that say Kahne won’t be replacing Martin, but instead he’ll replace Earnhardt Jr. since it’s better for him to leave the company than Martin. Besides, they say, it’s not like Earnhardt Jr.'s doing anything special anyway.

If Earnhardt Jr. goes, well that means he’ll go to RCR and the 3 machine because he'll fit in there better. Rick Hendrick doesn't want him to succeed and he won't until he's with RCR. Actually, that’s what some in the NASCAR world would love to see happen and by driving the No. 3 Wrangler car in July it must mean that he’s one step closer to making that a reality. 

Here’s a question: why is everyone set on Dale Earnhardt Jr. having to drive the his father’s car for his father’s team? What good could it possibly do?

Wouldn’t that only give the people that say he’s living off his father’s legacy satisfaction?

When Earnhardt Jr. left DEI in 2007 and didn’t go to RCR or the 3 car, it would be shocking if he suddenly changes his mind, or if Rick Hendrick decides to kick him to the curb.

Imagine how Earnhardt Jr. must feel, would you want to continue to be forced and tried talked into doing exactly what your dad did, driving what your dad did, acting like your dad did?

People don’t really want you; they just want the memories of your famous father.

That’s not what Earnhardt Jr. wants. He’s perfectly happy where he’s at and working with the people he is, unless he’s been lying in his interviews. Working for HMS is a position any driver would want to be in, and no driver wants to leave it.

Earnhardt Jr. shouldn't make that mistake as he's making his own legacy, whatever that may be remembered as when he’s done racing.

But driving the 3 car for one night in a race that doesn’t mean anything shouldn't do any harm. He did the same a year after his father died, in the 2002 GNC Livewell 300 which is the Nationwide Series opener.

It was a blue and white Oreos machine and he happened to win that race.

Later that year he also ran a yellow No. 3 car with Nilla Wafers/Nutter Butter, however he was involved in an accident and finished 36th in Charlotte. Since then he hasn’t been behind the wheel of a car with a 3 on it.

Also remember that in 1998 and 1999 he drove a No. 3 ACDelco car to back-to-back NNS championships. 

Come July he’ll return and this time in honor of his father with a paint scheme he made famous. 

Or, let’s hope that’s all it is, because if Dale Earnhardt Jr. does end up driving the No. 3 car in the Sprint Cup Series one day, the talk about not living up to his father’s name will truly be unmerciful.

And this time it’ll be well deserved. 

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