NASCAR fans are familiar with the iconic No. 3 car that was driven by the late, great Dale Earnhardt, who died in a tragic crash at the 2001 Daytona 500. But what about the current driver of the No. 3 car, Austin Dillon? Is he related to Dale Earnhardt? And how did he get to drive the legendary car that was once retired after Earnhardt’s death? Here’s what you need to know.
Austin Dillon’s Family Tree and Parents
Austin Dillon is not related to Dale Earnhardt by blood. He is the grandson of Richard Childress, the owner of Richard Childress Racing (RCR), the team that Earnhardt drove for from 1984 until his death in 2001. Austin’s father is Mike Dillon, a former NASCAR driver who now works as RCR’s general manager. Austin’s mother is Tina Dillon, who also works for RCR. Austin has a younger brother, Ty Dillon, who also competes in the NASCAR Cup Series.
However, Austin Dillon does have a distant connection to the Earnhardt family through his maternal grandfather, Robert Gee Sr., who was a NASCAR fabricator and car builder. Gee Sr. was married to Martha Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt’s mother, from 1972 until his death in 1994. This makes Austin and Ty Dillon half-first cousins of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeffrey Earnhardt, and Kerry Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt’s sons from his first marriage.
How Austin Dillon Got to Drive the No. 3 Car
The No. 3 car was synonymous with Dale Earnhardt, who won six of his seven Cup Series championships and 67 of his 76 Cup Series races with that number. After Earnhardt’s death, RCR retired the No. 3 car from the Cup Series out of respect for his legacy. However, the number was still used in lower-level NASCAR series by other drivers, including Austin and Ty Dillon.
Austin Dillon began driving the No. 3 car in 2009 in the Camping World Truck Series, where he won two races and the championship in 2011. He then moved up to the Nationwide Series (now Xfinity Series), where he won three races and another championship in 2013 with the No. 3 car. In 2014, he made his full-time debut in the Cup Series with the No. 3 car, becoming the first driver to use that number in the Cup Series since Earnhardt.
Dillon said that driving the No. 3 car was a huge responsibility and an honor, and that he had the blessing of both his grandfather and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who supported his decision to bring back the number. Dillon also said that he wanted to honor Earnhardt’s legacy and make new fans proud of the No. 3 car.
Austin Dillon’s Achievements with the No. 3 Car
Since driving the No. 3 car in the Cup Series, Austin Dillon has won four races: the 2017 Coca-Cola 600, the 2018 Daytona 500, the 2020 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, and the 2022 Coke Zero Sugar 400. He also qualified for the playoffs five times (2016, 2017, 2020, 2021, and 2022) and finished 11th in points three times (2017, 2020, and 2022). He also became the first driver to win both poles at Daytona International Speedway in a single season in 2014.
Dillon has also continued to race in lower-level NASCAR series with the No. 3 car, winning six more races in the Xfinity Series and one more race in the Truck Series.
Dillon is currently one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR, and has a reality TV show called “Austin Dillon’s Life in the Fast Lane” on USA Network that follows his personal and professional life.
Austin Dillon is not related to Dale Earnhardt by blood, but he does have a distant connection to him through his maternal grandfather’s marriage to Earnhardt’s mother. He also has a close relationship with Richard Childress, his grandfather and team owner, who was Earnhardt’s longtime friend and boss.
Dillon drives the No. 3 car that was once driven by Earnhardt with respect and pride, and has achieved some notable victories with it. He is carrying on the legacy of one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers while making his own mark on the sport.