Austin Dillon Could Win the Daytona 500 in the #3 Car; Dale Earnhardt Fans Should Embrace That

Dillon Is a Talented Driver Who Will Represent the #3 Well, Make Its Return Mean Something

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COMMENTARY | Austin Dillon, the new driver of the iconic #3 car for Richard Childress, has won the pole for the 2014 Daytona 500.

And with the RCR cars being very fast at Daytona, the #3 has a strong chance to return to Victory Lane at NASCAR's most famous track for the first time since 1998, when Dale Earnhardt Sr. got that long-awaited and very popular win.

This is something I'm happy to see, and a lot of folks do agree with me that another driver carrying on the #3 car's legacy is great for the sport.

But as always, the nonbelievers are out there. They have been quick to emerge ever since the decision was made by Richard Childress to return the #3 car to the track.

A lot of the NASCAR community who were fans of the #3 car have expressed concerns about the #3 car's return. To them, it just doesn't seem right -- it will always be Earnhardt's ride and his alone.

The hat
Then there are those who, for whatever reason, go on Twitter and other social media sites to say they hate that Austin wears a cowboy hat all the time.

"I'm trying to like Austin Dillon, I really am..but as long as he's parading around in that damn cowboy hat I just can't do it. #3"

"Am I the only one that thinks that Austin Dillon looks like idiot in that cowboy hat, it bigger than he is. #nascaridiot"

Some are a bit more humorous:
"Attn: Austin Dillon. Lose the cowboy hat. You look like Woody from Toy Story."

My take: Who gives a flip what kind of hat the kid wears? I don't understand why that thought even enters people's minds. Let's focus on what matters -- what happens on the track.

Embrace the return
Point blank: The kid can drive. He's talented as all get-out, as his Truck series and Nationwide series titles prove. Sure, he had a financial boost from his grandfather's support, but his talent on track is what has gotten him to this stage in his career.

He's bringing back one of the most popular cars in the history of the sport, and I simply do not understand why some Earnhardt fans out there won't get behind him.

I would understand if he wasn't a strong driver, but that's obviously not the case. He's going to win a lot of races in the Cup series driving that 3 car (maybe even next week's Daytona 500) and that will be a tremendous thing for the sport as a whole.

A lot of Dale Sr. fans hoped Dale Jr. would pick up where his father left off and rattle off a bunch of championships. That obviously hasn't happened, but maybe someone else can carry on that legacy, with Dillon bringing the #3 car back to the track.

I have a hard time believing that these folks who were Dale Sr. fans won't root for Dillon if he ever makes a serious run for a championship. It will be like old times for them, and they should embrace this new opportunity to renew that support for RCR's #3 car. (And people always forget: The #3 was driven by Childress before Earnhardt got in that car).

Sure, you can be idealistic and say thing like: "The No. 3 car should've been permanently retired when Dale died," but that's not the way NASCAR works, nor should it. All the great numbers have been used by multiple drivers, and the 3 shouldn't be any different.

Unlike the 43 car, which has had so many weak drivers since Richard Petty retired I couldn't even fit them all on one sheet of paper, the 3 car will have one driver, Austin Dillon, for a very long time, and he's going to represent it well.

Get used to seeing Austin Dilllon on top of the scoring pylon, because he's going to be there a lot as his NASCAR career continues to flourish. And if you can't stand him just because of the number on his car or the hat on his head, you might want to re-examine how you look at things -- as that's just plain silly.

Matt Myftiu lives in Michigan, has been a walking encyclopedia of NASCAR since immersing himself in the sport over 15 years ago, and has worked as a journalist for two decades. His blog on the sport, NASCAR: Beyond the Track, has been published by The Oakland Press for the past six years. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

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