The agenda for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week in Las Vegas includes the traditional National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers Luncheon on Thursday. During said luncheon, several awards are handed out, including the one for Most Popular Driver. In recent years, it could be said that the award has pretty much been the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Award and the Bill Elliott Award before that.
Last year, there was some speculation that Danica Patrick could possibly give Earnhardt a run for his money, so-to-speak, given her popularity coming into the sport. But Earnhardt kept his streak alive and claimed his 11th-straight Most Popular Driver Award.
Earnhardt’s most popular status may be challenged again this year by an unexpected challenger — Josh Wise. Okay, so really it wouldn’t be all that unexpected. After all, I’m writing about it here. And fans saw what happened with Sprint All-Star Race fan voting.
With Earnhardt a race winner heading into this year’s All-Star Race, he wasn’t one of the options for Fan Vote entry. As a result, Patrick was expected to get that slot into the all-star event. But instead, that slot went to Wise, thanks to a movement on Reddit.
I admit, I didn’t really get the whole Reddit system, but from what I heard, the folks there took advantage of something to get Wise the votes he needed to get into the All-Star race. I’m thinking there was something to those claims, because, after all, Josh Wise? Really? Nothing against Wise, but I really don’t see that big of a fanbase there.
The same folks at Reddit who, somehow, got Wise into the All-Star Race began a movement to get Wise the Most Popular Driver Award. The movement was called, “Next Mission: Let’s Make Sure Wise Wins the Most Popular Driver Award.”
If getting Wise into the Sprint All-Star Race was any indication, the movement to get him named NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver is a possibility, I guess. But if it happens, should the NMPA examine how fans are allowed to vote and/or how the winner is determined?
I guess that’s a sticky topic. When you get right down to it, that’s kind of like saying that if the driver we want or think should win the award doesn’t, the system should be changed. That’s the way a lot of fans view NASCAR’s continual changing of the Chase system. Chase naysayers criticize frequent Chase format changes, saying that NASCAR changes the system when the desired driver doesn’t win. I guess I’m doing the same thing, here, calling for possible changes to the most popular voting process if the driver I think should win the award doesn’t.
In my defense, I wouldn’t call for a review of the system if certain drivers other than Earnhardt were to win the award, say other popular drivers who actually make headlines and have strong followings, i.e. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson or any number of others. But Wise? Not so much.
Again, nothing against Wise, but I just don’t see the following there.
But then again, this may be much ado about nothing. Earnhardt could win, yet again, making it business as usual. But if Reddit gets this award for Wise, shouldn’t we maybe cry, “foul?”
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– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR