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Emotions run high as Austin Dillon takes the wheel of Earnhardt Sr's No 3 car

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Richard Childress has announced that he is bringing the No.3 back into competition, and giving it to his grandson Austin Dillon for the new Sprint Cup season, despite die-heart fans of Dale Earnhardt Sr., who drove the car for six of his seven NASCAR championships for Childress, before he was killed at the 2001 Daytona 500.

Austin is the son of Childress’s daughter Tina and her husband former Busch Series driver Mike Dillon, who now works as general manager at Richard Childress Racing.After working his way through Bandoleros and Lengends in 2005, Dillon was named Rookie of the Year in the Truck Series in 2010, and won the Truck Series championship in 2011. He also won the Nationwide Series Championship in last year 2013.

Many NASCAR fans, however, feel the No. 3 should remain retired for posterity, Childress stated that he and Earnhardt had talked a lot about what to do with the car when he was no longer driving.

“That decision was made 14 years ago when Dale and I sat in an old car in the rain one day talking about his retirement. We talked about what he was going to do, and how he wanted to help me, and how to put a driver in the No. 3 that could win championships. It was not in the plans to put anyone in the car until the right person was there.”

In the meantime, there have also been plenty of critics regarding the decision to put a rookie in the car, decrying the move was based on “nepotism not talent,” and insisting that the rightful heir should have been Dale Earnhardt Jr., who now drives for Hendrick Motorsports.

While Earnhardt Jr., did pilot a No. 3 Wrangler painted-schemed car to victory at Daytona in 2010, he has always considered the No. 3 to be “too big a bite to chew.” There is no way to measure how he will now feel when competing against it during this year’s season. Still, he has said that he is “genuinely happy for Austin because he and I have become pretty good friends and Richard is genuinely thrilled.”