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Formula One’s Daniel Ricciardo drawn to NASCAR (and even NFL)

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MONTREAL (AP) Daniel Ricciardo drove go-karts while growing up in Australia and found himself drawn to stock car racing and the big personalities behind the wheels.

“I loved a lot of motorsports, but as far as the ovals go, I was more into NASCAR,” Ricciardo said this month. “Dale Earnhardt was kind of a hero of mine. The No. 3 – it was my first go-kart number, so I already had a bit of affection to No. 3. But being a fan of Dale’s as well, that definitely made me want to run that number.”

In an interview before the Canadian Grand Prix, where he finished fourth in his No. 3 Red Bull, Ricciardo said he saw a lot of similarities between Earnhardt and three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna.

And he wanted to be like them.

“I was so ruthless on track,” Ricciardo said, recalling Earnhardt’s nickname: The Intimidator. “Everyone was intimidated by him. But off-track (they) had a massive following and could balance that aggressiveness with humility off of track. I thought both Senna and Earnhardt carried that really well.”

Speaking to reporters in a Montreal hotel fresh off his victory in Monaco – the seventh of his Formula One career – Ricciardo joked about having to share the spotlight back home after the win with Will Power, who won the Indianapolis 500 on the same day.

It was the first time drivers from the same country had won the two races on the same day. Britain (1965, 1966) and Brazil (1989, 1993) had claimed both victories in the same year.

Ricciardo, who is from Perth in Western Australia, said he was featured on the front page in his home state but didn’t know how the East Coast papers played the news; Power is from Queensland.

“I would probably guess both of us would have gotten – if not front page, the back page,” he said, chuckling. “And if not, shame on them.”

Although Ricciardo said he has followed Power’s career – the IndyCar driver is 9 years his senior – the two have never met. “But I was really happy for him because everyone that’s worked with him tells me that he’s a really hard worker and he’s earned every step of his career,” Ricciardo said.

Like the Indy 500 for IndyCar, Monaco is the signature race of the Formula One season, and Ricciardo’s victory gave him a newfound celebrity. After performing his trademark “shoey” – drinking champagne out of his racing boot on the victory podium, in front of the Monaco royal family – he continued the celebration later by diving into a rooftop swimming pool while still wearing his racing overalls.

It was the conclusion of a fun weekend for him.

Earlier, while standing on the bow of a boat in the port, Ricciardo caught a pass from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady – thrown from another boat – and then booted the football back to the Brady on the other yacht.

“I spoke to him a bit. Super-nice guy. I’m sure he gets harassed everywhere he goes,” said Ricciardo, who like the five-time NFL champion is sponsored by Tag Heuer watches. “I never really have expectations when I meet someone of his caliber, but the fact that we spoke and he showed an interest and he was excited to be there, that was cool.”

But the encounter left Ricciardo with one, lingering letdown.

“Australian rules football, we’re used to that shaped balls, catching and kicking. I grew up doing a lot of that. So that’s why I thought I would maybe impress a few people,” he said. “The only thing I’m really, really disappointed with is I haven’t gotten a call from the Patriots yet.

“They’ve got to spot talent when they see it,” he said with a laugh. “I mean this kid can catch. And I can run.”

NBC to air more than 100 hours of IMSA racing in 2019

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Beginning January 26, 2019 with the 57th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona, NBC will air more than 100 hours of exclusive coverage of the IMSA Sports Car Championship across their platforms.

NBC Sports will present 12 races across NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app throughout 2019. In addition to the 24 Hours at Daytona, race highlights include the 12 Hours of Sebring from Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida, on March 16; the Grand Prix of Long Beach from the Long Beach Street Circuit on April 13; and the penultimate race of the season from WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, on September 15.

“We couldn’t be more excited to begin our IMSA coverage with the 57th running of the iconic Rolex 24,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports and NBCSN in a press release. “As the home of U.S. motorsports, we’ll showcase the uniqueness of IMSA racing to motorsports fans everywhere, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the association throughout the upcoming season.”

More than 40 hours of will be broadcast on NBCSN with live coverage of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Laguna Seca and season finale Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta showing on NBC.

MORE: IMSA Reveal 2019 schedule

Coverage of the 24 Hours of Daytona will get underway Thursday, January 24 at 2 p.m. ET with a season preview on NBCSN. That program will be followed by live coverage of qualification for the race from 3 to 5 p.m. ET as a world class group of drivers lock in their positions for the annual twice-around-the-clock endurance race.

The preview show will re-air Saturday as a lead-in to live coverage of the 24 Hours, which will kick off a 2 p.m. ET.

“As we all get ready for IMSA’s much-anticipated 50th anniversary season in 2019, our new NBC Sports media partnership promises to promote and showcase our unique premium product in revolutionary ways,” said IMSA CEO Ed Bennett. “Both IMSA and the WeatherTech Championship have been experiencing incredible momentum the last several years and this partnership should only help elevate the sport to new heights.”

NBC will be the exclusive home for IMSA beginning in 2019 as part of a six-year partnership between the two organizations.

The season concludes with live coverage of the Motul Petit Le Mans on Oct. 12 from Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia.

All races will be live streamed to authenticated subscribers on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.