By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
When Austin Dillon zoomed past the start finish line in Thursday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying session he did more than capture his first career pole, he did what many have wanted to see for years… He put that famous No. 3 back atop the scoring pylon when he turned a lap three-hundredths of a second faster than Matt Crafton.
Since 2001 fans have awaited the return of the number three to prominence after the passing of the sport’s most famous driver Dale Earnhardt, yet the appearance of the number has been rare to say the least. However Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress, decided he wanted to run the number in honor of his grandfather this season. He has performed fabulously considering his rookie status, and I believe he can carry the number back to the top.
Through the first nine races of the 2010 Camping World Truck Series schedule Dillon sits 14th in the overall standings, but the main reason he isn’t higher right now is bad luck. At Dover a broken oil pump ended his day, then at Charlotte a broken part sent him into the wall forcing him to a 35th place finish.
The last time the No. 3 won a race in any of NASCAR’s “big three” divisions was in the 2002 Nationwide Series event at Daytona, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in a tribute to his father. However the last pole by a driver in a car or truck sporting the No. 3 goes further back than that.
As we all know Dale Earnhardt was never known for being a strong qualifier so poles for him were quite scarce, in fact his last pole came in 1996 at Watkins Glen. But this wasn’t the last time the number has been fastest on pole day. The last time the No. 3 sat on a pole was actually in October 1999 in a Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway… Sound familiar?
Jay Sauter wheeled the No. 3 Goodwrench Service Silverado to a victory from the pole in that race, so my question is will we see a little bit of history repeating? Don’t bet against it in the WinStar Casino 400K at Texas.