AUSTIN, Texas — With the engine rumbling and the tires smoking, Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo lived his childhood dream at Circuit of the Americas, where he was gifted a joy ride in a car driven by late NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt.
Ricciardo got behind the wheel of the 1984 No. 3 Wrangler Chevrolet Monte Carlo ahead of Saturday’s activities at the U.S. Grand Prix. The Australian is an unabashed fan of Earnhardt, who won seven championships in the Cup Series and was a first-ballot selection to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The Saturday morning drive around the Austin, Texas, road course – he turned a few laps and even spun some donuts – was a reward from McLaren boss Zak Brown for Ricciardo winning his first Formula One race with the team earlier this season. The car is the original and now part of Brown’s collection.
It's written across @danielricciardo's face just how much he enjoyed driving his hero Dale Earnhardt's iconic 1984 Chevrolet 😍
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 24, 2021
Ricciardo, who has long called Earnhardt one of his racing heroes, is wearing a special black and silver helmet this week that pays tribute to Earnhardt. It includes Earnhardt’s No. 3 and Ricciardo’s nickname “The Honey Badger” in the style of Earnhardt’s “The Intimidator” persona.
“He’s a big hero of mine, so to be able to drive one of his cars is going to be a surreal moment and a bit of a dream come true,” Ricciardo said earlier in the week.
Dirty Mo Media, the production company owned by Earnhardt’s son, has been desperately trying to schedule Ricciardo for the “Dale Jr. Download,” Earnhardt Jr.’s popular televised podcast, while Ricciardo is in North America.
“I’m happy for Daniel,” Earnhardt Jr. tweeted. “I’m also appreciative for how he celebrates my father. That makes a lot of dads family members and fans smile.”
I’m happy for Daniel. I’m also appreciative for how he celebrates my father. That makes a lot of dads family members and fans smile.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) October 23, 2021
Formula One will hold the United States Grand Prix for the first time in nearly two years Sunday with points leader Max Verstappen on the pole position.