Dale Earnhardt waves to fans during race introduction before the start of the Daytona 500 Sunday afternoon, Feb. 18, 2001 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla  Earnhardt was involved in a serious crash in the race. (AP Photo/Russell Williams)They don't typically retire numbers in motor racing the way they do in other sports. Certainly not in series like F1 where numbers are assigned based on how the team did in the previous season. But even in American oval-track racing, it's a bit of a rarity. CART retired Greg Moore's number 99 after he died in a crash in 1999, but the number resurfaced after the Indy merger. NASCAR has only ever officially retired a number once – the number 61 that Richie Evans used until he died in 1985 – and that was in the Whelen Modified Tour, not in one of the stock car championships. But Richard Childress has singlehandedly kept the number 3 out of circulation for the past dozen years.

That was the number Dale Earnhardt, Sr. raced under, right up until his final passing maneuver at the Daytona 500 in 2001. Team owner Childress has paid the fee to keep the number ever since, but has kept it out of use in Earnhardt's memory. His successor Kevin Harvick has raced in the Sprint Cup under the substitute number 29 ever since, and the number 3 was being kept out of use in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series as well. But that's all primed to change.

Childress' own grandsons have been making their way up the stock car racing ladder, Austin Dillon has been racing under the number 3 in the Nationwide Series, and his brother Ty Dillon has been using the same in the Camping World Truck Series. Austin has campaigned a handful of Sprint Cup races, sometimes using the number 33 at his grandpa's team, but now he's officially moving up to the big leagues full time, and is likely to take the number 3 along with him.

Whether Dillon and Childress concoct some sort of retro tribute livery to Earnhardt's (pictured above) remains to be seen, but it looks like Dillon is leaving his sponsor AdvoCare behind. General Motors has retired the Goodwrench name (at least in the US) that sponsored Earnhardt's car, but that's not to say that GM Certified Service couldn't fit the bill with a black and red livery.