There is a way to respect history and a way to exploit it. Richard Childress has been around NASCAR long enough to know the difference. Sadly, he is choosing marketing over decorum in taking the No. 3 Xfinity Chevy out of mothballs to put Jeffrey Earnhardt in the driver’s seat.
“We think Jeffrey is a talented young driver and I’m confident he will run well at Talladega,” Childress said in the announcement that Earnhardt will drive for him later this month.
Talented? Relatively, since only a tiny subset of the population can handle a race car.
Young? At 32, not so much.
Run well at Talladega? Not out of the question, but there’s no factual foundation to make that claim.
RCR reveals Jeffrey Earnhardt will drive the No. 3 Chevy
NASCAR veteran Jeffrey Earnhardt will drive his grandfather’s iconic No. 3 Chevy in the Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23, the Richard Childress Racing team announced Tuesday. Earnhardt is the grandson of Cup Series great Dale Earnhardt, a 10-time winner on the 2.5-mile track.
“What a dream come true,” Earnhardt said in the RCR statement. “The chance to be behind the wheel of the No. 3 car for RCR, that my pawpaw made famous, has long been a dream of mine and now it‘s finally happening.”
Added team owner Richard Childress: “It‘s great to have an Earnhardt back in one of our cars.”
Dale Earnhardt drove for the Childress team from 1984 until his death at the 2001 Daytona 500. He won 76 races and seven season championships in his Cup Series career.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove the No. 3 Chevy, but only briefly
It’s not as though “The Intimidator” was the only Earnhardt to drive the No. 3 Chevy. In fact, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a pair of Xfinity championships in that ride for the DEI team. Once his father died, however, Earnhardt Jr. brushed aside the assumption that he would eventually move from the No. 8 Cup Series Chevy at DEI to the No. 3, whether with Richard Childress Racing or elsewhere.
It never happened. His only change was moving into the No. 88 Cup Series Chevy at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.
However, the younger Earnhardt did drive the No. 3 Chevy three times in the Xfinity Series after his father’s death. He won at the Daytona opener in 2002 in an emotional moment and was an also-ran in Charlotte later that season. He came back one more time to win in the RCR No. 3 in the 2010 Daytona summer race.
That was it, however. Aside from being careful not to exploit his father’s close association with the number, Earnhardt Jr. had created his own brand while driving the “8” and the “88.”
Jeffrey Earnhardt driving the No. 3 Xfinity car feels tacky
Richard Childress Racing retired the No. 3 Chevy from the NASCAR Cup Series following Dale Earnhardt’s death. RCR put the number back in service in 2014 with Austin Dillon driving. Two years earlier, Dillion also took the Xfinity “3” back out onto tracks.
Seven drivers have raced in the No. 3 Chevy since 2012, beginning with Dillon. However, RCR pulled the car out of service after the 2018 season. Now, suddenly, Richard Childress has seen fit to put Jeffrey Earnhardt in the car this month.
It’s out of the blue and curious, a nicer way of saying “tacky.” Earnhardt is winless in 135 Xfinity Series starts since 2009 and 76 more in the Cup Series. His only three times in the top 10 came in 2019. When JD Motorsports didn’t renew Earnhardt this past offseason, it’s not as though the world was beating down his door with offers.
Sam Hunt Racing gave Earnhardt a partial Xfinity Series schedule a month before the current season started, and 13th place in Atlanta has been the best of his four finishes. That isn’t stopping RCR from putting Earnhardt in a car instantly recognizable for the connection to his grandfather.
Nevertheless, ForeverLawn, specializing in synthetic grass installations, put up the money as the primary sponsor, so RCR will roll the car out of the garage and onto the Talladega track.
It’s a bad look already and will likely feel worse on race day.
All stats courtesy of Racing Reference.