The National Motorsports Press Association, a.k.a. the NMPA, held its annual Myers Brothers Luncheon during NASCAR Champion’s Week festivities in Las Vegas on Thursday. This is the event during which the results of the fan vote for NASCAR’s Most Popular driver is revealed. Maybe the award should be renamed something like the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Award.
Earnhardt won the award, yet again, this year, claiming his 10th-straight honor in the category. And before you get the wrong idea, Junior Nation, I’m in no way critical of Earnhardt claiming this award. After all, he is, obviously, NASCAR’s poster boy, and this is, after all, a popularity competition.
Earnhardt’s not even the the most decorated when it comes to this particular award. That honor goes to Bill Elliott, voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver a record 16 times. Ten of those awards came consecutively, so Earnhardt did tie him in that category with most-consecutive honors.
My point is that the winner of this award stopped being a surprise a long time ago. Do any other drivers even have a snowball’s chance in you know where of ever winning this award? Probably not as long as Earnhardt’s around. But hold on just a minute. What about Danica Patrick? She’ll be a full-time Sprint Cup driver next year.
I actually was, in some way, surprised that Patrick was revealed as the Nationwide Series’ Most Popular Driver recently at the joint Nationwide-Camping World Truck series banquet. Yes, she seemed to be the most talked about driver in that series the last couple of seasons, at least within the media, but it seemed to me like most of the fans fell on the hater side of the Danica fence. But then again, maybe the haters are just more vocal.
Just kind of makes me wonder, will Danica give Junior a run for his money when it comes to the Most Popular title next year? Maybe, maybe not. One things for sure, it doesn’t look like anyone else is going to quiet Junior Nation, at least not anytime soon.
Maybe there should be some kind of popularity-type consolation prize, something like the Most Popular Driver Not Named Earnhardt Award. The competition for that award may actually be wide open.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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