Twenty years ago, Dale Earnhardt Sr. won his only Daytona 500 with a lucky charm on-board his No. 3 Chevrolet.
Glued to his dashboard was a penny given to him by then 6-year-old Wessa Miller the day before the race.
On Sunday, Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 returned to Daytona’s victory lane in a Cup Series race for the first time since Earnhardt’s historic day.
Austin Dillon, the grandson of team owner Richard Childress, took the checkered flag after contact between him and race leader Aric Almirola on the last lap resulted in Almirola wrecking.
Glued on the left side of dashboard in Dillon’s Chevrolet was his own lucky penny, also given to him by a young fan.
“We did an autograph session before the Clash (on Sunday), and a lot of fans were there, and some kids that I don’t think they knew a whole lot about racing, but they were enjoying themselves,” Dillon said Sunday night.
One of the fans was a seven or eight-year-old boy wearing a white Ford hat.
“I said, ‘Man, you’ve got to take that off,'” Dillon recalled. “I signed my hat, gave it to him, and said, ‘Now, look, I’ve got to be your favorite driver, right?’ And he’s like, ‘All right, cool, I’ve got you now.'”
The next day, Dillon encountered the boy standing at the fence of the Cup garage. He wore the hat Dillon had signed.
“He yelled at me, and I turned, I seen he had my hat on. So I was like, sweet. He’s like, ‘Hey, I got this for you.’ It was a lucky penny. Put it in the car, and it’s sitting on the dash right now, and it’s pretty special. I think that’s really cool. I’ve never been that superstitious in my life, but my grandfather is very superstitious, so I listened to him in the race, I ran the bottom more, I found a lucky penny, and it just worked out tonight, I guess.”
The penny that was given to Earnhardt is still in the car that won in 1998. It sits in the Richard Childress Racing Museum in Welcome, North Carolina.
Dillon’s penny will also remain where it was glued as the car is displayed in Daytona’s museum for the next 12 months.
“I think that penny deserves to stay with its owner, the car, so it’s going to stick right there,” Dillon said. “You guys can go check it out. I’d like to find that kid, though. Maybe I can ‑‑ if somebody knows (him), if you could get him to the track tomorrow, that would be really cool.”