The mother of the late Dale Earnhardt has mixed emotions that the car number associated with her son will be returning to the Sprint Cup Series this season.
“I have mixed feelings because I was told that I would never see a number three on the race track after Dale died,” Martha Earnhardt said Wednesday in a nationally televised interview on Fox Sports 1.
After a 13-season absence, the No. 3 that Earnhardt made famous will be back on Cup race tracks this season with rookie Austin Dillon behind the wheel.
Dillon is the grandson of Richard Childress, who was also the team owner for the car that Earnhardt drove to six of his seven Cup championships before being killed in a last lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.
“I can understand it to a point,” Martha Earnhardt said. “I know it was Richard’s number when he drove and this is his grandson, and I understand that.”
But at the same time, Martha Earnhardt believes as long as the paint scheme of the No. 3 is different than the jet black GM Goodwrench-sponsored car that her son literally drove into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it’s fine with her.
“As long as they don’t make it look like the number three (that her son drove),” Martha Earnhardt said. “If they painted it a different color … I can sort of deal with it, but I don’t want to see the black number three just like Dale’s. But that’s not my decision.”
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.