ICYMI: The Week on Front Row

To longtime NASCAR fans, the No. 3 of the late champion Dale Earnhardt is almost sacred.

Richard Childress, who owned Earnhardt’s cars, withheld No. 3 from NASCAR competition after Earnhardt’s death until Childress’ grandson, Austin Dillon, began racing in NASCAR’s upper echelons three years ago.

ESPN televises the entire NASCAR Nationwide Series and Dillon’s use of the No. 3 in the series is the subject of a new promotional spot that will debut during the telecast of the season-opening race from Daytona International Speedway today at noon ET. The commercial continues ESPN’s “Names Are Made Here” campaign for the Nationwide Series.

In the spot, images of NASCAR fans demonstrating their reverence for the No. 3 run under a narration from Dillon, who speaks of his respect for Earnhardt, the number and NASCAR fans, as well as his desire to make his own mark in the sport.

“The goal this year as with every Nationwide campaign is to let fans know that these drivers represent future stars and champions of the sport. Communicating that effectively means harnessing the uniqueness behind each driver’s story,” said Andrew Barge, ESPN associate marketing manager, who helped develop the spot.

“From a storytelling standpoint, Austin was an obvious choice for us. He had an impressive rookie season and comes from such a well-known NASCAR family. To also have his lineage traced back to the No. 3, a number so synonymous with greatness within the sport, offered a concept with a lot of potential to resonate with our core fans,” he said.

“Fortunately, NASCAR and Richard Childress Racing agreed.

“It is a very inspiring spot,” he said. “We’re hoping fans share strong, favorable reactions, because it reflects Austin’s great appreciation for NASCAR’s history and his confidence going into this season.”

Fittingly, Dillon recorded the narration in a studio at the NASCAR Hall of Fame where Earnhardt was enshrined in 2010.

“He gave a really genuine, passionate, heartfelt read,” Barge said. “He and his team exhibited a lot of respect and passion for the concept from the beginning, which really benefitted the creative process.

“It ultimately allowed us to create an ad worthy of its powerful subject matter.”

Wieden + Kennedy New York is the creative agency for the campaign.

ICYMI: Highlights from the past week on Front Row

• ESPN’s roster of sideline reporters is deep, diverse and talented. Samantha Ponder shared details of her first two years on the job for ESPN and offered tips for others looking to follow in her footsteps.

• ESPN’s lead soccer studio analyst Alexi Lalas talked about his recent appearance on The Colbert Report where match-fixing and the popularity of the sport in the U.S. were among the topics of discussion.

• When the NBA trade deadline was approaching, former head coach and current analyst Flip Saunders  discussed this season’s trade market, his deadline day memories and his transition to broadcasting.

• The busy Sarah Spain took some time from her various ESPN responsibilities to talk Twitter, her “That’s What She Said” series on espnW and upcoming events on her calendar.

Row of Four
Our favorites from across ESPN over the past week

• From espnW: Newtown girls fulfilled their mission

• Robin Roberts discusses her personal and public journey over the past year in A Special Edition of 20/20

• From OTL: The Runner – At 101 years old, Fauja Singh will run his final marathon on Sunday

• Enjoy an array of photos in this gallery from ESPN Images.

Andy Hall contributed to this post.