It has been 18 years since a Richard Childress-owned No. 3 has sat on the pole for the Daytona 500 and 13 years have passed since the number even graced a NASCAR Sprint Cup car in the series.

All of that changed in one afternoon Sunday as Austin Dillon, Richard Childress' 23-year-old grandson, returned the No. 3 to the track and the top of the qualifying boards, grabbing the pole for the 2014 NASCAR season opener.

Arguably no single digit has raised more passion and discussion in NASCAR racing than the No. 3 and the man who wheeled the machine nearly 20 years - seven-time series champ Dale Earnhardt. Numbers are licensed by NASCAR to the car owner and Childress himself carried it on his cars before he retired as a driver in the early 1980s to put Earnhardt behind the wheel. Childress has purchased the Sprint Cup license to the number each year since 2001 after Earnhardt's death as a result of injuries suffered in the first race of the season that year but has chosen not to run it on one of his cars.

Now, after years of occasional use in some instances (see Dale Earnhardt Jr., Nationwide win in 2010) and full-time use in others - Dillon's Nationwide championship last season -- Childress has brought the No. 3 back to the Cup Series with his grandson. And the team hit the ground running.

"I couldn't be more proud of Austin. We wanted to come down here and put on a good show with the 3," Childress told Fox Sports after the last car with a chance to knock Dillon from the top spot missed.

Dillon and Childress bring the No. 3 to Bristol - where Earnhardt won nine times -- for the March 16 Food City 500. NASCAR qualifying on Ford Fan Friday March 14 features the new twist of a 30-minute session open to all cars at the same time. Come see what happens.

Weekend ticket packages start at just $89. To reserve your seat inside the Last Great Colosseum, visit or call toll-free (855) 580-5525.