For the first time since February 18, 2001 the number 3 will race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starting in 2014. Richard Childress Racing announced Wednesday during a break in testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway that driver Austin Dillon, grandson of team owner Richard Childress, will race the iconic number in NASCAR’s top touring series starting with the season opening Daytona 500 on February 23, 2014.
The number 3 has been synonymous with the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. Earnhardt began racing the number 3 after joining RCR in 1981. Childress and Earnhardt won six Sprint Cup titles racing the number and continued it until Earnhardt’s death on final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. The number appeared in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2009 and 2010.
Dillon began racing with the number in 2009 in the Camping World Truck series and carried the number to the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2012. Dillon won the Truck Series title in 2011 and the Nationwide title in 2013. Dillon's Sprint Cup program will be led by crew chief Gil Martin, a 13-year veteran of the organization who led Kevin Harvick to six chase berths.
"My grandfather and everyone at RCR have done a great job of not pushing me too quickly into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series," Dillon said. "I feel like I've been able to spend adequate time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series preparing for this next step in my career. I am thrilled to be making this move with partners like Dow and Cheerios, along with some long-time partners who have supported me and RCR throughout my career. I am truly grateful and looking forward to this opportunity."
Primary sponsorship will come from General Mills through the Cheerios brand and Dow Chemical. The program between RCR and Dow is driven by several Dow businesses that are directly involved in R&D projects and strategic business and relationship opportunities unique to the NASCAR community.
"We see this as a great opportunity to partner with a historic team like Richard Childress Racing that is synonymous with success, integrity and championships, and a championship driver in Austin Dillon," said Joe Harlan, executive vice president of Dow. "Austin's winning passion is representative of Dow. Our employees and customers were very supportive of our debut into our partnership with RCR during 2013 and they are looking forward to continued involvement with Austin next year.