Just a number?

“What should be done with the #3?

Driven by Dale Earnhardt during 19 NASCAR seasons.
Dale Sr billboard
The history of the #3 in NASCAR racing shows that Richard Childress has owned the number since 1976.

I’m really surprised by the poll over at NA$CAR.com.

It asks ‘What should Richard Childress do with the #3?

It currently shows a divided opinion among 178,329 votes.

Let Dale Earnhardt Jr. drive it? 49%
Let someone else drive it? 6%
Should he retire it? 45%

I wonder:

Is the ‘let Jr. drive it’ crowd mostly Jr. fans?
Is the ‘retire it’ crowd the longer term Dale Sr. fans?
Is the ‘let Jr. drive it’ crowd partially made up of Dale Sr. fans that think it would be honoring to Dale Sr. to let Dale Jr. drive the #3?
Are all Dale Jr. fans really Dale Sr. fans that now love Dale Jr simply because of Dale Sr.?
Is being a Dale Jr. fan the way that ‘unhealthy’ people still hold onto being a Dale Sr. fan?
Would Dale Jr. be as popular today if his name were actually Morgan Shepard Jr.?
How would all the marketing and memorabilia revenue be effected by someone else in the #3?
If Dale Sr. had simply retired, would the #3’s future even be in question?

I’ve already spoken my piece on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and it hasn’t changed.

Here is a (probably too lengthy to be legal) excerpt from Dale Earnhardt Jr in a Marty Smith article over on Nascar.com

(start of excerpt)
The tributes were welcome in 2001. Junior said the old man would’ve gotten a kick out of being honored like that. But one year was plenty. And context, he said, is crucial to the family.

“Sometimes when his name is brought up, like when NASCAR pulls the Dale Earnhardt card for the drivers not showing up [at the banquet in New York], that pisses me off,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I just don’t think that’s cool.

“The man’s passed away, and he’s not there for you to use to your advantage. If people want to name grandstands after him, or roads, shit like that’s kind of cool. But anything you relate him to what’s happening in this sport today it bothers me a little bit.”

Which begs one of the biggest questions currently hovering over the sport: If Dale was here …

“It’d look about the same,” Junior said. “He was close to retirement. TV was taking us. We were going whether he was here or not. I think some things would be different. He was definitely an influence on spoiler heights and plates, s— like that.

“But the sport was getting pretty big, even for Dale Earnhardt. You had all these guys coming in like Tony [Stewart], Kurt [Busch] and all these guys. They would have given him a run for his money.

“He’d have found it quite a challenge racing with these guys.”
(end of excerpt)

I wonder what Dale Earnhardt Sr. would say to do with the #3?”