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February 19, 2014

DE LA BASTIDE: Famed '3' returns to Cup

1966 Little 500 winner Beale passes away.

The famed “3” returned to NASCAR’s Sprint Cup division in a fitting fashion with Austin Dillon claiming the pole position for Sunday’s running of the Daytona 500.

The “3” was the number used by Dale Earnhardt Jr. to capture six NASCAR championships for Dillon’s grandfather Richard Childress.

The return of the “3” was past due.

Known as “The Intimidator,” Earnhardt helped take NASCAR to the next level on the nation’s sports pages, building on the steps taken during the Richard Petty era of competition.

Tragically, Earnhardt died in a last lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500 while protecting the win for Michael Waltrip.

The “3” has not been in Sprint Cup competition since that accident, so its return for the Childress-owned team and Dillon makes perfect sense.

There are slight changes in the color of the number.

With the Daytona 500 set for Sunday I’m going to predict that Ryan Newman, driving for Childress, is going to take the checkered flag. Newman has been fast in practice and knows how to use the draft.

It would be fitting for the South Bend native to win NASCAR’s biggest race after being dumped by fellow Indiana native Tony Stewart from his racing team for 2014.

BEALE PASSES AWAY

Former Pay Less Little 500 winner and racing legend Rollie Beale died Monday of congestive heart failure at a Toledo hospital.

Beale, 84, won the 1966 running of the Pay Less Little 500 at Anderson Speedway, starting the race on the outside of the front row. He took the lead on lap 301 and stayed in front for the final 199 circuits.

It was Beale’s fourth start in the Little 500. He finished 22nd in 1961, eighth in 1964 and 12th in 1965 before recording the victory.

Beale was inducted into the Little 500 Hall of Fame in 2007.

“It’s tough,” Beale said of the Little 500 in 2007 during an interview with The Herald Bulletin. “There’s nothing like it. You’ll never find another race like it.”

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