Ricciardo set to test NASCAR Chevy of 'big hero' Earnhardt


Daniel Ricciardo left Monza with some scintillating silverware and an overflow of emotions in his luggage, but the Aussie's joy also extended to greater heights thanks to a pre-season promise made by McLaren Racing boss Zak Brown.

Earlier this year, Brown - who owns a stunning collection of historic racers - committed to offering the Aussie a track day with the #3 1984 NASCAR Chevrolet Monte Carlo of his racing hero, Dale Earnhardt Sr, if he managed to secure a podium with his new team.

That feat seemed like a very unlikely prospect until last weekend, when Ricciardo led a triumphant 1-2 for McLaren in the Italian Grand Prix. And Brown's promise was at the back of his mind when he stood on the highest step of the podium at the Temple of Speed.

"I’m like, maybe he gives me the car?" joked Ricciardo. "I think it was always a podium, I get to drive it.

"We never talked about a win, so I gave him my shoe that he drank out of, so maybe he gives me the car. It’s a good trade!"

Earnhardt, a seven-time Winston Cup champion, sadly lost his life in a crash that occurred on the final lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001.

But the NASCAR legend will always hold a special place in Ricciardo's heart, a perhaps unusual reverence for an F1 driver.

"Yeah, there’s like a couple of things today, like two heroes: Dale Earnhardt – big hero of mine – and to have a chance to get behind the wheel of one of his cars is crazy.

"That will certainly be a 'pinch me' moment."

But Ricciardo's swirling emotions at Monza were also stirred by the realization that he had joined the exclusive league of McLaren winners in F1, a club led by his other motorsport idol, the great Ayrton Senna.

"The other one… I’m sorry if I sound a bit self-absorbed now but when I think of McLaren I think of Senna," he added.

"That’s the early memories and I’ve seen you know, like the trophies in the cabinet at the MTC [McLaren Technology Centre], and to have a winning trophy now with my name in pretty much the same cabinet is crazy.

"These are like two little things today that I certainly appreciate, and they are two little surreal moments that I guess have hit me."

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