How Earnhardt inspired Ricciardo to become 'The Honey Badger'
Daniel Ricciardo has revealed it was his admiration for late hero Dale Earnhardt that inspired him to become 'The Honey Badger'.
It was 20 years ago today [February 18] that Earnhardt was killed in a crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, sustaining a skull fracture after a hitting a wall head-on following a collision with Ken Schrader.
Earnhardt was renowned for the 'No. 3' that adorned his race car throughout the majority of his NASCAR career during which he earned himself the nickname 'The Intimidator' for his aggressive driving style.
As a big fan of Earnhardt, Ricciardo opted to follow in the American racing star's footsteps in one respect by taking on the 'No. 3' on his cars after joining Red Bull in 2014, while he also forged himself his own nickname.
While respecting the moniker 'The Intimidator' belonged to Earnhardt, the 31-year-old Australian opted for a unique name, modelling it on an animal renowned to be fearless and predatory.
Reflecting on the 20th anniversary of Earnhardt's death, new McLaren driver Ricciardo said: “I remember vividly the race 20 years ago, [and] my reaction to the news. I was crying.
"I called my friend at the time, Steven, 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 basically cried on the phone together. He was a hero, for sure.
"It was really in 2014 when I took on the number three, and I also had it in the back of my mind to take on ‘The Intimidator’ and my version of that was ‘The Honey Badger.’
"I felt it was really my year to make a bit of a statement, to be the guy that was, let’s say, 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, let's say, make that statement and to earn that reputation. For sure, part of that was on the back of Earnhardt and how he inspired me.”
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