“Fan favorite” race car back at … er, on … home

The race cars on top of Big Daddy’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar in Mooresville evoke a sense of nostalgia in many who live or visit here. 

Sometimes, the cars have to be switched out or spruced up a bit because of fading due to the sun and weather. And when that happens, especially with the Dale Earnhardt, Sr. #3 car, people take notice. 

That was the case when Dale Sr.’s car, along with Dale Jr.’s #88 car, was recently removed from the Big Daddy’s roof because of wear. 

Though the cars are sometimes traded out for various reasons, “we will always keep Dale Sr.’s #3 car,” said Nikki Young, daughter of Big Daddy’s owners Freddie and Susie Lancaster. “We are proud to be able to display his car.”

She said her dad, who still runs the restaurant that his father (Nikki’s grandfather) opened in 1974, “had customers ask just about every night when that car would be back.” 

Those folks will be happy to learn that both Dale Sr.’s #3 car and Dale Jr.’s #88 car were replaced just this morning. At 9 a.m. sharp, A&B Crane began lifting and securing the cars to the Big Daddy’s roof. 

While the race cars have become synonymous with Big Daddy’s, situated on N.C. 150 just west of the heart of “Race City USA,” they actually started out as a joke. Nikki tells it like this: 

“Freddie’s dad was a partner in a company called Racing Decor that made all kinds of racing memorabilia. They had a full-sized car that was used for shows, and one day Freddie and his brother put it up on the corner of the (restaurant) roof as a joke on their dad.”

But it turned out to be a wildly popular decision. “People passing by began stopping to take pictures, and (the family) decided to expand it to cars all the way across (the roof),” Nikki said.

“We have had a few different cars and trucks through the years such as Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex, Jr. Interesting fact: Dale Jr. asked for the Jeff Gordon car when we were removing it due to weather fade and added it to his race car graveyard on his property,” Nikki said. 

“A couple years ago, Kyle Busch’s team contacted us about updating his car to his (then) new sponsor. Shortly after, Brad Keselowski’s team emailed us asking if they could surprise him and have his added. He and his family dine with us often and they knew it would be special to Brad to have it up there.”

While the cars and trucks will likely continue being switched in the future, Nikki said, if #3 is missing, y’all can bet it’s temporary and only for a bit of sprucing up. “It’s definitely the fan favorite,” she said.


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Hi! I’m Jaime

I was a newspaper reporter in Mooresville, NC for a decade and covered local government issues from 2003 to 2006.