Ricciardo reveals Earnhardt inspiration
By Mat Coch
Thursday 18th February, 2021 - 7:00am
Two decades on from the crash which claimed the life of Dale Earnhardt, Daniel Ricciardo has revealed the impact the NASCAR driver has had on his life.
One of the sport’s leading figures, Earnhardt was killed at the 2001 Daytona 500.
Aged just 11 at the time of the crash, and a fan of NASCAR racing, Ricciardo recalled hearing of the 49-year-old’s death.
“I remember vividly the race 20 years ago, my reaction to the news, and yeah, I was crying,” said Ricciardo.
“I called my friend at the time, Steven… 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.”
Ricciardo has cultivated a reputation as being a hard nosed racer, drawing inspiration from the seven-time NASCAR series champion.
“It was really in 2014 when I took on the #3,” he began.
“I also had in the back of my mind to take on The Intimidator [Earnhardt’s nickname].
“And obviously my version of that was The Honey Badger, but I felt it was really my year to make a bit of a statement to be the guy that was, let’s say, not afraid to put on a big move, to race hard.
“I didn’t feel I quite had that yet, and that first year with Red Bull was my chance to really, let’s say, make that statement and to earn that reputation.
“So for sure, part of that was on the back of Earnhardt, and let’s say how he inspired me.”
Earnhardt died after sustaining a basilar skull fracture, and triggered a raft of safety improvements in NASCAR.
He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2002 and was an inaugural member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.
Last year he was voted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame.