Dale Earnhardt, Jr. happy for rookie Austin Dillon winning pole for Sunday's Daytona 500 with late father's No. 3 on car

Dale Earnhardt, Sr. lost life on last lap of 2001 Daytona 500

Youtube video uploads / Headline Surfer® /
1st video top left: Austin Dillon wins pole for Sunday's Daytona 500; 2nd video top right: Rookie Spring Cup racer Dillon answers questions at press conference after winning pole in famed No. 3;
Video segment at bottom: Dale Earnhardt's death recalled. 
Photo for Headline Surfer® / NASCAR graphic image /
Rookie Sprint Cup driver Austin Dillon poses for the cameras after winning the pole for the Daytona 500, having turned a lap of 45.914 seconds or 196.019 mph in the DOW Chevrolet on the 2.5 mile track at Daytona International Speedway. Joining him on the front row is Martin Truex, Jr. 
 

Austin Dillon wins pole for 2014 Daytona 500 in famed No. 3 Chevrolet wheeled by late Dale Earnhardt / Headline Surfer®DAYTONA BEACH -- Having won the pole for Sunday's Daytona 500, rookie driver Austin Dillon is no joke when it comes to bringing out the No. 3, emblazoned on the side of a Ricard Childress car for the first time since Dale Earnhardt's tragic death on the super speedway a dozen years ago in the Great American Race.

Dillon, the rookie driver and Childress' grandson, is no fluke. He was the Nationwide Champion in the junior NASCAR circuit last season. He turned a lap of 45.914 seconds or 196.019 mph in the DOW Chevrolet on the 2.5 mile track on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway. Joining him on the front row is Martin Truex.

The field for the Daytona 500 will be set after Thursday's running of the Budweiser Dual races at Daytona.

For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who finished second in the 2001 Daytona 500, where his dad lost his life when he slammed into the retaining wall off turn 4 of the final lap when he was bumped from behind by Sterling Marlon, Dillion's showing in the upcoming Daytona 500 is bittersweet.

“It’s a symbol for my father and that stylized number and that flag is a symbol to him,’’ said the 39-year-old Earnhardt Jr., who came back in the July race that year to win and then winning the 2004 Daytona 500. “When somebody raises that flag up over their motor home, or wherever they may fly it, it’s a way for them to show their support and their fandom for my father.’’

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on Austin Dillon winning pole for Daytona 500 / Headline Surfer®Photo for Headline Surfer® /
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on rookie Austin Dillon winning the pole for Sunday's Daytona 500 in the No. 3 made famous by his late father, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. who was killed in a last lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.

“It’s a symbol for my father and that stylized number and that flag is a symbol to him,’’ said the 39-year-old Earnhardt Jr., who came back in the July race that year to win and then winning the 2004 Daytona 500. “When somebody raises that flag up over their motor home, or wherever they may fly it, it’s a way for them to show their support and their fandom for my father.’’

Earnhardt, Jr. drives the No. 88 Chevrolet Mountain Dew for Hendrick Motorsports. He's finished second in each of the last two 500 races.

Austin Dillon oversees work done on his No. 3 racing car in advance of Sunday's Daytona 500 / Headline Surfer®Getty images / NASCAR / for Headline Surfer® /
Rookie Sprinf Cup driver Austin Dillon looks over work being donew on his No. 3 Chrvrolet DOW racing car after winning the pole for Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
 

Last year's pole sitter, Danica Patrick finished a respectable top 10 in last year's Daytona 500, so Earnhardt, Jr., doesn't see why Dillon won't hold up when the free flag is dropped Sunday. Of course, Earnhardt, Jr. and 41 other drivers will be gunning for the lead against Dillon.

Dillon put the famed No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet on the pole for the 56th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race scheduled for Sunday.

Dillon became the second straight rookie to sit on the pole following Danica Patrick's showing last year.

The 23-year-old Dillon, grandson of Childress, is driving the legendary No. 3 car as he campaigns for rookie honors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2014.

The historic No. 3 hasn't been used in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition since 2001, and the elder Earnhardt's tragic death, something Dillon is very cognizant of.

"Everybody wants to see this number perform well," said Dillon, who has previously won the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck series championships driving the No. 3 car for Richard Childress Racing. "That's why my goals are to stay focused. I know this is just qualifying, but it is great for these guys."

Dillon is the fourth driver in the history of the Daytona 500 to put a No. 3 car on the pole.

Buddy Baker (1969), Ricky Rudd (1983), Dale Earnhardt (1996) previously won Daytona 500 poles with the No. 3 car.

Said Childress of his grandson's showing, "I couldn't be more proud for Austin and (crew chief) Gil (Martin) and all the guys that worked so hard this winter to come down here and run good. We wanted to put on a good show with the No. 3 and couldn't be more proud of everybody."

Said Childress of his grandson's showing, "I couldn't be more proud for Austin and (crew chief) Gil (Martin) and all the guys that worked so hard this winter to come down here and run good. We wanted to put on a good show with the No. 3 and couldn't be more proud of everybody."

Starting alongside Dillon will be Furniture Row Racing's Truex, who posted a lap of 195.852 mph with an Earnhardt-Childress Racing built engine.

Dillon's No. 3 car was also outfitted with an ECR engine giving the engine company a sweep of the front row.

"Front row, that is what we are here for today," Truex Jr. said. "Obviously can't say enough about this team. What a great job I think we have got about seven miles on this car One run yesterday, no testing down here, just an amazing job by the team."

Earning the Daytona 500 pole secures Dillon a spot in the invitation-only 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona. For the moment, Dillon will enjoy the spotlight for the next six days as the Daytona 500 pole sitter.

The remainder of the DAYTONA 500 starting field will be finalized in Thursday's inaugural nighttime running of the Budweiser Duel At Daytona 150-mile qualifying races (FOX Sports 1, MRN Radio), which begin at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Both Dillon and Truex Jr. will each lead their respective Budweiser Duel fields to the green flag on Thursday night.

Headline Surfer® Multimedia:

YouTube uploads /
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wins the 2001 Pepsi 400 in an emotional race following his father;'s death in the February Daytona 500 race. And Junior would go on to win the 2004 Daytona 500.
 

YouTube uploads / videos by EarnhardtJrFan4Life /
First video: Emotional Dale Earnhardt., Jr. commercial honoring his late father; second video: Junior tribute to his father.

TICKETS:

Tickets for NASCAR's biggest, richest and most prestigious race - the 56th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 23 - start at $65 and are available at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.

Follow NASCAR:

Fans can follow NASCAR on Twitter (@NASCAR) and stay up to speed on the latest news by using hashtags #NASCAR, #DAYTONA500 and #ROADTODAYTONA. Stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter
 
Some information for this story was provided by Daytona International Speedway information specialist Andrew Booth.
 
Editor's Note: Henry Frederick was at the track the day Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was killed in the Daytona 500. He covered widow Teresa Earnhardt's successful civil trial in a Daytona Beach courtroom that kept her husband's autopsy photos sealed from the media. He's covered every Daytona 500 and July 4 weekend race at Daytona from 1996 to the present with the exception of 2005 and 2006.
Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com for a decade now. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards in print anddigital platforms. Frederick is enrolled at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's three-fourths through the online Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation is in August.