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The teams pay to lease the numbers from NASCAR each year and for each series. Car owner Richard Childress has leased the 3 since he started and drove with the number 3 long before he hired Dale Earnhardt to drive for him.
Richard Childress grandson, Austin Dillon, uses it now in the Nationwide Series and may use it once he gets to the Cup level.
A car owner does not have to use a number while leasing it.
Richard Childress has already stated that the only drivers he will ever let drive with the number 3 are members of his family or the Earnhardt family.
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