Editorial update: Noon 6/30/12: This was written before the No. 3 was found illegal in post-race inspection. I stand by what I wrote here and will write another story regarding my thoughts on penalties and disqualifications.
SPARTA, KY - It was only a matter of time before the legendary black No. 3 returned to victory lane. And in fact, Austin Dillon made it look timeless on Friday night, winning the Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
It's all part of the plan for Richard Childress, who placed his grandson and Danny Stockman Jr. together last year with the grand plan of eventually graduating them to the Sprint Cup Series. A year in a half later and it couldn't have worked out better.
Dillon won two Camping World Truck races last year en route to winning the Series championship. While some argued that Dillon won the championship by default, and by facing a considerably weaker roster, the title still came down to the final races with James Buescher and Ron Hornaday Jr. both making late charges to deny him of the crown. Nothing is a gimme in NASCAR.
Win or lose, Dillon was going to learn the lessons that would benefit him more than any championship ever could. Last season taught him respect (not that he was lacking in humility to begin with), seasoning, and durability, all classes in which he passed high marks according to his crew chief and grandfather.
"When Richard first put this deal together, I sat down with Austin and we made one goal - to finish every lap of every race and that's exactly what we do week-in and week-out. He doesn't tear up equipment and he doesn't crash race cars."
Austin's father immediately quipped by ‘knocking on wood," a notion that was repeated by both Austin and Stockman with sheepish laughter. All joking aside, Austin Dillon is the future of the Sprint Cup Series and the future might come in the form of a familiar font.
Childress has always said that he's committed to running Austin and Ty in the No. 3 until they get to the Cup Series. At that point it was always assumed that they would adopt one of the pre-existing numbers or perhaps move to another team. The possibility of Austin keeping his number wasn't even considered until Childress dropped the following line:
"I don't plan on running the 3. Dale made that stylized 3 famous," Childress said. Then, with a grin, he added, "We don't have any intention of running that stylized 3 in the Cup. That leaves an opening, doesn't it?"
This is a topic sure to draw mixed opinions. On one hand, Dale Earnhardt is arguably one of the top drivers this sport has ever witnessed. At 76 wins, and seven championships, the Hall-of-Famer is likely the sport's best case to retire a number.
On the other hand, Ty Dillon fits every requirement decided-upon by his grandfather. He's family (defined as being an Earnhardt or Dillon), and a champion who adheres to the standards of that legendary number.
In any case, there's plenty of time to make this decision. He's 22 and shouldn't be ready for a full-time Sprint Cup Series ride until 2014 at the earliest. The rest of this season, and his tenure in the Nationwide Series will go a long way in determining if he is truly the heir to the 'stylized No. 3.'
As always, share your thoughts and responses in the comments section below. We'll have a Sprint Cup Series race thread up in a few hours. Follow me on Twitter @MattWeaverSBN for all the latest on-site news, quotes, and observations.
Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch will start today's Quaker State 400 from the front row. Green flag is set to drop at approximately 7:30 p.m. EST.
Additional notes, embedded video and a full-field rundown of Friday's Feed the Children 300 can be found after the jump.
There weren't a lot of storyline developments in Friday's race. The lack of cautions and spread-out field saw to that. At one point, Austin Dillon lapped all but six cars and only 23 ultimately finished on the lead lap.
Uneventful races are becoming the norm at Kentucky Speedway. What can be done to improve racing conditions at a track that appears to be a favorite and crown jewel of SMI boss Bruton Smith?
Victory Lane: Austin Dillon (via TheOfficialNASCAR)
Post-Race Reactions: Feed the Children 300 (via TheOfficialNASCAR)
|1||1||3||Austin Dillon #||Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet||200||48||5||150.0||$97,068||Running||3||192|
|2||8||54||Kurt Busch(i)||Monster Energy Toyota||200||0||121.8||$51,825||Running|
|3||2||33||Kevin Harvick(i)||Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet||200||0||121.7||$36,275||Running|
|4||9||43||Michael Annett||Pilot/Flying J Ford||200||41||1||112.2||$33,993||Running||2||3|
|5||7||31||Justin Allgaier||Brandt Chevrolet||200||40||1||106.6||$29,943||Running||2||4|
|6||4||12||Sam Hornish Jr.||Wurth Dodge||200||38||110.7||$26,168||Running|
|7||3||22||Brad Keselowski(i)||Discount Tire Dodge||200||0||104.3||$18,325||Running|
|8||5||6||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Sam's Club/Cargill Ford||200||37||1||105.3||$25,468||Running||1||1|
|9||12||2||Elliott Sadler||OneMain Financial Chevrolet||199||35||91.1||$22,543||Running|
|10||13||30||James Buescher(i)||Fresh from Florida Gulf Seafood Chevrolet||199||0||87.2||$23,193||Running|
|11||26||99||Kenny Wallace||American Ethanol/Family Farmers Toyota||198||33||73.2||$21,468||Running|
|12||11||7||Danica Patrick||GoDaddy.com Chevrolet||198||32||86.0||$20,943||Running|
|13||25||98||Reed Sorenson||Shelby Engine Co. Ford||198||31||77.1||$13,925||Running|
|14||10||88||Cole Whitt #||Degree MEN Chevrolet||198||30||91.6||$19,868||Running|
|15||14||36||Ryan Blaney||SealWrap Chevrolet||198||29||76.0||$14,150||Running|
|16||20||38||Brad Sweet #||Great Clips Chevrolet||198||28||82.0||$19,418||Running|
|17||17||44||Mike Bliss||TriStar Motorsports Toyota||197||27||78.3||$19,293||Running|
|18||24||87||Joe Nemechek||AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota||197||26||73.9||$19,143||Running|
|19||42||70||Johanna Long #||Keen Parts Chevrolet||196||25||67.1||$19,018||Running|
|20||18||39||Josh Richards||JOY Ford||196||24||72.2||$13,100||Running|
|21||21||51||Jeremy Clements||Clements Automotive Chevrolet||196||23||71.0||$18,968||Running|
|22||19||81||Jason Bowles #||American Majority Toyota||195||22||64.4||$18,643||Running|
|23||33||19||Tayler Malsam||G-Oil/Ryobi Toyota||195||21||54.1||$18,493||Running|
|24||16||23||Jamie Dick||Viva Auto Group Chevrolet||195||20||65.2||$18,343||Running|
|25||35||40||Erik Darnell||TheMotorsportsGroup.com Chevrolet||193||19||53.0||$18,343||Running|
|26||40||14||Eric McClure||Hefty/Reynolds Wrap Toyota||193||18||40.9||$18,398||Running|
|27||37||50||TJ Bell||Beaver Bail Bonds Chevrolet||192||17||45.4||$11,475||Running|
|28||23||17||Tanner Berryhill||New Gulf Resources/Excel Therapy Specialists Toyota||192||16||47.7||$11,355||Running|
|29||41||24||Jamie Mosley||Telmate Chevrolet||182||15||37.7||$17,688||Running|
|30||15||11||Brian Scott||Dollar General Toyota||176||14||82.4||$17,878||Engine|
|31||34||01||Mike Wallace||G&K Services Chevrolet||143||13||42.0||$17,468||Accident|
|32||30||41||Timmy Hill||Poynt.com Ford||141||12||51.3||$17,358||Rear Gear|
|33||6||18||Denny Hamlin(i)||Dollar General Toyota||132||0||75.1||$10,785||Engine|
|34||27||4||Danny Efland||TradeBank Chevrolet||103||10||45.6||$17,143||Ignition|
|35||36||89||Morgan Shepherd||A+ Building Services Chevrolet||48||9||40.2||$10,560||Fuel Pressure|
|36||39||52||Kevin Lepage||Metro Ministries Chevrolet||32||8||40.0||$10,525||Wheel Bearing|
|37||29||74||Scott Riggs(i)||Koma Unwind Chevrolet||11||0||37.1||$10,475||Ignition|
|38||32||08||Tim Andrews||Randy Hill Racing Ford||10||6||37.1||$10,431||Rear Gear|
|39||31||46||Chase Miller||TheMotorsportsGroup.com Chevrolet||6||5||36.5||$10,295||Ignition|
|40||38||42||Josh Wise(i)||Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet||5||0||35.5||$10,210||Vibration|
|41||43||15||Blake Koch||RWR Chevrolet||5||3||32.9||$10,150||Engine|
|42||28||10||Jeff Green||TriStar Motorsports Toyota||4||2||32.9||$10,120||Vibration|
|43||22||47||Scott Speed(i)||Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet||2||0||31.8||$10,053||Engine|