NASCAR Notes: 11 Years Later, We Still Love Junior
BY DAVE GRAYSON
The votes were tallied and the results were clearly obvious: for the 11th time the fan club known as the Junior Nation came through and proved they still love Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The National Motorsports Press Association announced that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the recipient of this year’s NMPA NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award. The award was presented to the Hendrick Motorsports driver during the December 4th annual NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon, a part of the season-ending Champions Week activities in Las Vegas.
It is the 11th consecutive year Earnhardt Jr. has been selected through a vote of the fans, breaking a tie with Bill Elliott for most consecutive awards received. Elliott continues to hold the overall mark, having been named the series’ most popular driver 16 times.
However, Earnhardt receiving this prestigious award 11 straight years is hardly something he takes lightly. During the process of accepting the award he said: ”I don’t really keep track of the stats or the score, but Bill was a great driver and ambassador for the sport. He represents the sport really well to this day, as does his son Chase, who’s coming up and carrying on the family name. But, I’ve always looked up to Bill as a driver so it’s pretty neat.”
More than 1 million votes were tallied for 39 eligible drivers from this year’s first race to the last at the site www.MostPopularDriver.com
. Fans voted once per day with Earnhardt Jr. collecting more than 700,000 votes. The final top-10 drivers, in order of votes received were: Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.
Now, If you will indulge me in a personal observation: the news of Earnhardt’s latest popularity award was duly noted in a rather loud and boisterous manner here in my southern California home. The lady of the house, forever the card carrying, T shirt wearing, member of the Junior Nation, kept running down the hall, that connects our living room to my racing office, screaming J-U-N-I-O-R!!! It’s going to be a very long evening.