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.”

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”