Colour Dale Jr. hope­ful for Dar­ling­ton

The Hamilton Spectator - - RACING 2017 - C JACK­SON COWART

When Dale Earn­hardt Jr. first saw the blue and white No. 3 car with his name on it, he thought it was a joke.

Be­fore the 1997 sea­son, Dale Earn­hardt Sr. told his son he’d be run­ning in NAS­CAR’s Busch Se­ries. In eight races, Earn­hardt Jr. earned one top-10 fin­ish and fin­ished ranked 47th in the se­ries. He didn’t hear from any spon­sors af­ter the sea­son.

Mean­while, Earn­hardt Sr. was look­ing for some­one to re­place Steve Park. The son fig­ured he wasn’t a can­di­date. So, when Earn­hardt Jr. walked into the garage in early Jan­uary 1998 and saw his name atop the blue No. 3 car with white trim, “I hon­estly thought they were try­ing to play a prank on me,” he said.

They weren’t. Earn­hardt won 13 races and two cham­pi­onships with Dale Earn­hardt, Inc., in 1998-99 be­fore mak­ing the full-time jump to the Cup Se­ries in 2000. And this week­end, in what will likely be his last race at Dar­ling­ton, he’ll try to recre­ate the magic of those two years with the same blue body and white trim.

“It’s a paint scheme — and a part of my ca­reer — that I re­ally hold dear,” he said. Earn­hardt re­vealed the throw­back paint scheme for his No. 88 car at the NAS­CAR Hall of Fame on Tues­day, just un­der seven weeks be­fore NAS­CAR will cel­e­brate the 1985-89 era of rac­ing in the third year of its “throw­back” cam­paign at Dar­ling­ton.

JEFF SINER, TNS

Dale Earn­hardt Jr. poses with a die cast of the No. 88 Na­tion­wide Chevro­let that he will drive in his fi­nal Bo­jan­gles’ South­ern 500 at Dar­ling­ton Race­way.

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