By AMANDA VINCENT
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was named 2015 Sprint NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association)Most Popular Driver Award on Friday night during the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet at Wynn Las Vegas. Is was Earnhardt’s 13th-consecutive award win. The award formerly was handed out during the yearly NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon, held yearly on the Thursday of Champion’s Week, but for 2015, the award was, instead, presented during the awards banquet.
As recipient of the 2015 award, Earnhardt remains the only driver to win the award since 16-time winner Bill Elliott claimed the honor for the final time in 2002.
Despite winning the award the 12 previous years, Earnhardt was surprised he beat retiring driver Jeff Gordon for the 2015 honor.
“I thought Jeff was going to win it, to be honest with you, in his last year,” Earnhardt said. “You just never know. You never take it for granted.”
During his acceptance speech, though, Earnhardt mentioned that he thought Matt Kenseth was a shoe-in for the 2015 award, taking the opportunity to joke about the late-season drama between Kenseth and Joey Logano.
“There was that one time during the year when I thought Matt Kenseth had it wrapped up,” Earnhardt said. “Y’all saw the grandstands at Martinsville! I’m sorry Joey; that’s mean.”
The Most Popular Driver award is a fan-voted award. Fans had opportunities to vote once daily since Sept. 6 online and through NASCAR’s mobile application.
“I’m humbled,” Earnhardt said. “This award is for Junior Nation.”
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