CHARLOTTE, N.C. The one thing a NASCAR driver never wanted to see was the black No. 3 Chevrolet closing on his rear bumper. One glance of the car in the rearview mirror was enough to send tremors through any competitor.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. hopes to achieve that same effect this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, where he'll mark his late father's birthday by driving a replica of the famed car.
Junior's trademark red Chevy will be painted predominantly black, with white lettering and silver and red stripes. The car mimics the design the late Dale Earnhardt made famous. Junior still will use his No. 8 his father's No. 3 has not been on the track since his 2001 death.
"The car looks good, it's a cool way to honor my dad," Earnhardt said yesterday. "It's going to be a lot of fun to be behind the wheel of that car and see the reaction it gets from other drivers on the track."
The tribute is part of a larger salute at Dale Earnhardt Inc., which is celebrating Earnhardt's induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame tomorrow night, his overall accomplishments at Talladega and his 55th birthday, which would have been Saturday.
All three DEI cars will have the same paint scheme, which Junior views as an appropriate celebration of the seven-time champion. He seemed uncomfortable in February marking the five-year anniversary of his father's death, but birthdays bring happier memories.
"His birthday is something I do enjoy pointing out or celebrating or recognizing because that was always a lot of fun with him," Junior said. "When he was getting a little older, we was always thinking about what his real age was. There's some things that come and go without a blink of an eye. But there are other things that come and go that you want to point out and you want to recognize and you do appreciate."
Dale Earnhardt was the greatest at restrictor-plate racing, especially at Talladega, where he scored 10 wins.