Ricciardo “would have cried” if he’d heard Earnhardt Jr’s comments

McLaren Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo admits he would have cried if he’d heard Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s response to the Australian driving his father's 1984 Chevrolet NASCAR at Austin.

Ricciardo “would have cried” if he’d heard Earnhardt Jr’s comments

McLaren boss Zak Brown, who owns the machine campaigned in period by legendary NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Sr as part of his extensive car collection, vowed after Ricciardo's victory at the Italian Grand Prix to reward him with a test run.

Ricciardo, who is running an Earnhardt Sr tribute helmet at this weekend's US Grand Prix, has previously spoken of growing up supporting the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and revealed earlier this year how he was impacted by his death in the 2001 Daytona 500.

The Australian duly drove the blue-and-yellow Wrangler-backed car at the Circuit of The Americas on Saturday and explained that he had “so much fun” driving a car that was “so raw and foreign”.

“The noise, smashing gears, the driving position - everything’s quite unique,” he said.

“And it’s Dale’s car – one of my all-time heroes, so that was surreal. Good fun.

“And I think to do it here as well - if we had rented a private track somewhere in England, I don’t know, it wouldn’t have had the same effect. So I’m really grateful that Zak flew it out here.”

Following Ricciardo's demo run, retired NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrote on Twitter: “I’m happy for Daniel. I’m also appreciative for how he celebrates my father. That makes a lot of dad’s family members and fans smile.”

When informed of Earnhardt's response, Ricciardo said that he “immediately got goosebumps”.

“Honestly, if we’d been in a private setting and [Junior] told me that one-on-one, I think I’d probably have cried a little bit,” he said.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, 1984 Wrangler Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet NASCAR

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, 1984 Wrangler Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet NASCAR

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

“It was pretty crazy – like, happy-crazy – to be appreciated by that family in general. I’ve been such a fan.

“After Senior, I was a massive fan of Junior. I was watching every NASCAR race for years. I’d wake up and watch Junior try and win the 500 every February.

“It was pretty cool just to be recognised and appreciated for having support for his dad.”

Ricciardo admitted that he had been in a quandary when F1 drivers were first allowed to choose their car numbers, and he automatically went for the #3 that Earnhardt Sr. made legendary in NASCAR.

“I ran the #3 in his font on my helmet… and I remember speaking to Dale Jr.,” said Ricciardo.

“I was like, ‘Do I ask if I can do it?’ Even before I asked, he was like, ‘That’s so cool, we really appreciate you.’

“But I was also confident enough in my ‘fanboy’. I’d followed Dale for so many years as a kid, and then Dale Jr., so I was confident that if I got questioned about it I could speak truly and truthfully about it.

“And to bring that into F1 – it’s a bit like myself and Lando with Valentino Rossi. He’s got nothing to do with F1 but he’s a huge figure in motorsport and I appreciate that. It’s the same with Earnhardt.”

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