Daniel Ricciardo Recalls Reaction to NASCAR Legend Earnhardt’s Death: “I Was Crying”

Published 02/18/2021, 10:55 PM EST
MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 06: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Renault Sport F1 looks on in the garage during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)


Daniel Ricciardo made his Grand Prix debut at the British Grand Prix in 2011. One of the biggest influences on the Australian’s racing career is Dale Earnhardt, one of the most successful NASCAR drivers of all time.

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Dale Earnhardt was a highly aggressive driver, a style that earned him the nickname, ‘The Intimidator’. Unfortunately, the American racer died in an accident during the Daytona 500 in 2001.

Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of Earnhardt’s death. In an interview, the McLaren driver recalled the sad day of his hero’s demise. “I remember the race 20 years ago vividly,” Ricciardo said.

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 12: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Renault Sport F1 looks on in the Paddock during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 12, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

“My reaction to the news, I was crying. I called my friend at the time, Stephen, we raced go-karts together, and he was also a big Earnhardt fan. I called him as soon as I saw the news, and we just basically cried on the phone together. He was a hero, for sure,” he recalled.

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Daniel Ricciardo explained the reason behind using #3

Firstly, Earnhardt was the Australian’s racing hero. Furthermore, Ricciardo hoped using his hero’s racing number will help encourage him to adapt to ‘The Intimidator’ mentality. As an acknowledgment to his hero, Ricciardo started driving under the number-3 for Red Bull in 2014.

“It was really in 2014 when I took on the number three, I also had it in the back of my mind to take on The Intimidator – and obviously my version of that was ‘The Honey Badger’.”

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Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – December 10, 2020 Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo during the press conference FIA/Handout via REUTERS

“But I felt it was really my year to make a bit of a statement, to be the guy that was not afraid to put on a big move, to race hard,” he explained.

That first year with Red Bull, Ricciardo made a strong statement as he claimed the P3 finish in the drivers’ standing. The Australian will drive the 2021 season with McLaren. Looking for redemption, Ricciardo is sure to reach out to his inner intimidator and claim podiums this season.

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Do you believe McLaren will help the Honey Badger to intimidate the grid and get back on top of the podium once again?

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Ayush Manjunath

586 articles

Ayush Manjunath is a Formula 1 author for EssentiallySports with more than 500 articles to his name. A Law graduate and a current Sports Management student, Ayush also has a certificate from UCLA on Sports, Media and Entertainment Management. He has an undying love for motorsports and lives to see Max Verstappen, George Russell, Charles Leclerc, and Lando Norris battle for the championship one day!

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