Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 marks the return of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to Daytona for its second visit of the season. The race race marks the halfway point in the season and could go a long way toward determining who's in and who's out when it comes to the chase for the Championship.
But with the race fast approaching, the focus isn't on the drivers but on the cars. NASCAR announced on NASCAR.com that it had confiscated roof flap spacers from 31 teams—16 in Sprint Cup and 15 in the Nationwide Series.
The announcement has fans buzzing about one of the teams that didn't have the part confiscated.
The Hendrick Motorsports cars—including those for drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne—were not on the list of violators, causing some fans to question NASCAR's inspection process.
NASCAR is the only sport—with the possible exception of baseball—where drivers and teams who outperform the competition are assumed to be cheating.
But the idea that the sanctioning body is conspiring with Hendrick Motorsports is ridiculous.
The roof flaps are a vital piece of safety equipment, serving as the last line of defense to keep a car grounded during a high-speed accident.
After Kyle Larson's horrifying crash in February's Nationwide Series race at Daytona, NASCAR must do everything it can to ensure that all four wheels stay on solid ground.
And if that means penalizing teams for something as small as a roof flap spacer, so be it.
While the roof flap issue has created strong opinions throughout the NASCAR fanbase, one driver's opinion caused a more emotional response from fans.
As reported by NASCAR.com's Holly Cain, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on Thursday that he would be in favor of seeing his father's famous No. 3 return to the track with Austin Dillon behind the wheel.
I think it will be great...For a kid like Austin…he drove the "3" dirt racing and in the (Camping World) Truck Series and Nationwide Series. He’s earned the right to run that number as long as he wants.
Dillon, grandson of team owner Richard Childress, has driven the No. 3 throughout his NASCAR career, taking it to a Camping World Truck Series title in 2011 and Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2012.
Many fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the idea of anyone not named Earnhardt driving the No. 3 car in NASCAR's biggest series.
I understand their concerns. As Dale Earnhardt fans, they feel it would be an insult to see anyone else driving his car in the Sprint Cup Series.
But many others have come out in support of bringing back the No. 3.
It has now been 12 years since Dale Earnhardt's fatal accident at Daytona. An entire generation of NASCAR fans never saw Earnhardt race. To them, Austin Dillon is the No. 3.
Earnhardt drove the number in parts of 19 seasons. Richard Petty drove the No. 43 for more than 34 years, but no one seems to be bothered that Aric Almirola is in the car every week.
And let's not forget that NASCAR is the ultimate family sport. Austin Dillon wants to drive the No. 3 because his grandfather drove the number for six seasons in Sprint Cup competition.
Dillon is a proven winner in NASCAR competition. He didn't have the number handed to him—he earned it.
And if Dale Earnhardt Jr. is OK with Dillon taking it to the Sprint Cup Series, then so am I.
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