Malcolm in the Middle's Frankie Muniz had the eerily fateful opportunity to meet Dale Earnhardt on the same day of the legendary racer's fatal crash. Muniz — a self-professed NASCAR fan — attended the Feb. 18 Daytona 500 race to film a segment for MTV's "Day in the Life" Diary series (airing tonight at 10:30 pm/ET), and witnessed the tragic accident.

"It didn't look too bad," Muniz tells TV Guide Online, adding, "But I was sort of like, 'Why is he not getting out of his car?'" Shortly after, Muniz returned to his hotel room and heard the shocking bulletin on TV. "They said, 'We have very sad news in the NASCAR world,' and I was like, 'Don't say it, don't say it!' And they said it."

Muniz immediately ran to tell his mom, who was chatting with owners of the Phoenix racetrack. "Nobody believed me," he said. "They're like, 'No, that's not true.'" Once the reality sunk in, the young actor said it was a grim scene. "Nobody could believe it. Everyone was crying." The trip home was just as morbid, he notes. "Nobody talked on the plane. The airport is sort of [near] the track, and when you left you could see where all the flowers were.

"That's the worst thing that could ever happen at a NASCAR race," Muniz adds, "and it happened."

Of his meeting with Earnhardt, Muniz recalls that he was "the nicest guy. He's like, 'I love your show.' He said he watched it with his family every Sunday."