Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local Sports

February 22, 2014

Kramer: Earnhardt's No. 3 should be retired, not raced

Rookie assumes iconic number in Daytona 500


Has it really been 13 years since The Intimidator charged the high banks of Daytona?

I can still recall that fateful February afternoon in 2001 when I was a mere fourth grader who had no grasp on the magnitude of what the racing world lost.

Heck, has there ever been a more monumental tragedy in American athletics? The face of a sport, an icon, meets his end on the track that had been so fulfilling – yet so deflating – to him.

Earnhardt won every race run at Daytona, yet it took him 20 gut-wrenching years to finally triumph the elusive 500. The whiskered and beleagured Hall of Famer only captured it once.

The Daytona 500 –  the Grandady of them all; NASCAR’s Super Bowl – consumed Earnhardt in an almost sickly manner.

He truly believed that an asterik would be inked by his etch in history had he never hoisted the Harley J. Earl trophy – even with his record seven titles to boast.

Daytona was bred to be Earnhardt’s fate.

Gone with the Hall of Famer was his venerable No. 3 racecar, whose black exterior aptly personified the man behind the wheel.

The famed No. 3 makes a much anticipated yet contentious return on Sunday whenrookie Austin Dillon takes the green flag in the Daytona 500.

Dillon, the well-chronicled grandson of Richard Childress, who was Earnhardt’s car owner and best friend, has played the dispute poignantly.

He’s humbled and meek to climb into what will assuredly be a pressure-filled race, season and career.

This initiate is just 23 years old – only a mere four months elder than myself – yet he’s carrying a veteran demeanor.

But no matter how admirable the attitude, how prolonged the tragedy, how anticipated the hype, legends must be revered – and remembered.

Dillon shouldn’t race the No. 3 car because no one should. It’s more than just a number – it’s an icon.

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