The death that rocked a young Daniel Ricciardo: ‘I was crying’

It was the final-lap collision at the Daytona 500 that took Dale Earnhardt’s life, rocked the motorsport world — and left an 11-year-old Daniel Ricciardo in tears.

Earnhardt, 49, was killed instantly when he crashed into a retaining wall on a live television broadcast being watched by almost 20 million people.

Ricciardo, who paid tribute to the stock car driving legend on social media on Friday, was racing go-karts in Western Australia while dreaming of a professional career at the time.

Earnhardt’s passing left him shattered.

“I remember the race 20 years ago vividly,” Ricciardo said.

“My reaction to the news, I was crying. I called my friend at the time, Stephen, we raced go-karts together, and he was also a big Earnhardt fan.

“I called him as soon as I saw the news, and we just basically cried on the phone together. He was a hero, for sure.”

Earnhardt, known as The Intimidator, had a lasting impact on the new McLaren driver, inspiring his adoption of the number three and an aggressive mindset.

Dale Earnhardt was Daniel Ricciardo’s hero.Source:AP

“It was really in 2014 when I took on the number three, I also had it in the back of my mind to take on The Intimidator – and obviously my version of that was ‘The Honey Badger’,” Ricciardo said.

“But I felt it was really my year to make a bit of a statement, to be the guy that was not afraid to put on a big move, to race hard.

“I didn’t feel I’d quite had that yet. And that first year with Red Bull was my chance to really make that statement and to earn that reputation.

“For sure part of that was on the back of Earnhardt and how he inspired me.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CLcERcPFXZj/

A post shared by Daniel Ricciardo (@danielricciardo)

Ricciardo’s shout out to the NASCAR icon was acknowledged by his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt Jy offered the Australian an open invite to race for his NASCAR team back in 2016, an option Ricciardo said he would look at after his Formula One career.

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