Austin Dillon emotional after taking home Daytona 500 title

Posted by: Jeremy Patterson on 11/17/2021

Twenty years ago, legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt won his first and only Daytona 500, capping his de facto bucket list and putting a bright luster on his reputation as one of the best drivers in the history of the sport. Ironically enough, it was Dale’s twentieth attempt at the sport’s crown jewel event, and in the nineteen previous attempts, during which he had won seven season points championships without managing a Daytona 500 win, he’d managed to let the race slip away in just about every way imaginable.

Of course, just three short years later, Earnhardt would lose his life in a devastating last-lap crash at the same event, forever changing the landscape of the sport. The #3 car was unofficially retired for quite some time, only returning in 2013 on the side of Austin Dillon, the grandson of Earnhardt’s car owner, Richard Childress. As you can imagine, there was and aways will be a great deal of history and emotion tied up in the #3 and this weekend Dillon returned it to victory lane at the 2018 Daytona 500, marking the iconic digit’s first return to the hallowed winner’s circle since Dale Sr. last parked it there in ’98.

Dillon, who grew up in and around the sport, has always been respectful of the history around the #3 and knows what a huge legacy is riding with him each time he takes the wheel, but he seems to carry that burden well. He took home his first NASCAR Monster Series win at the 2017 Coca Cola 600 before taking home this year’s Daytona 500. For many racers, a Daytona win sets them up for failure, or it can serve as a springboard to kick off a great season with a win. Regardless of the rest of the season though, it’s a bit nostalgic seeing the #3 back in Victory Lane, and I personally hope to see it back in there often. The series moves north to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, where Dillon will look to capitalize on his momentum and continue toward the ultimate goal of a points championship.