Honda’s IndyCar drivers for the 2013 season made an appearance in Honda Performance Development’s headquarters in Santa Clarita, Calif., earlier this week, to celebrate HPD’s 20th year since its 1993 founding. Tweets rolled in from the IndyCar drivers and American Le Mans Series drivers (Lucas Luhr, who won the ALMS Long Beach race in a Muscle Milk HPD prototype) throughout the day.
Takuma Sato’s win must have featured some celebration because fellow Honda driver Ana Beatriz posted an Instagram photo of the Long Beach winner passed out in a car en route to HPD. Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson and Josef Newgarden were also amused onlookers.
At St. Petersburg, Honda premiered a “big head” campaign (pictured) – where they took the Honda drivers’ headshots and blew them up onto giant cardboard cutouts that were on display first in the pit lane, and later in the grandstands. The tradition has been popular at college basketball games in years past.
Honda joined IndyCar in 1994, won its first race with Andre Ribeiro at Loudon, N.H. in 1995, and its first championship with KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser, then driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, in 1996.
Vasser’s title set of a streak of six consecutive Honda titles in CART, won by Alex Zanardi (1997-98), Juan Montoya (1999) and Gil de Ferran, a new HPD ambassador (2000-01) before they moved to the IRL ranks in 2003.
Honda won its first Indianapolis 500 with Buddy Rice in 2004, also the same year it took its first IRL title with Tony Kanaan. From 2006 through 2011, Honda served as the sole supplier of engines for IndyCar – which dropped the beleaguered IRL moniker ahead of open wheel unification in 2008.
We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.
And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.
After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.
In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.
Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.
“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.
“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.
“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”
Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.
“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”
Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.