LAS VEGAS — official release — David Becker/NASCAR via Getty Images photo —
As the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers 2014 Awards Luncheon came to a close Thursday in Las Vegas, there was one more award to present.
And Dale Earnhardt Jr. could not have been more surprised to hear his name called.
In recognition of his career achievements as a driver for Hendrick Motorsports, owner for JR Motorsports, and philanthropy work with the Dale Jr. Foundation, Junior was named the recipient of the 2014 NMPA Myers Brothers Award, a prestigious accolade recognizing those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of stock car racing.
“This doesn’t even seem real,” said an emotional Earnhardt after receiving the honor at the 2014 NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon held at Wynn Las Vegas.
Past recipients of the award include Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon just two years ago, and nearly every current member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“The truth is I’m obviously extremely humbled by this award, but I feel like I share it on so many levels—my sister Kelley along with everyone at JR Motorsports is as deserving as this as anyone,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve got a lot of passions with NASCAR but I wouldn’t know how to make them realities without all those folks. They’re why we just completed our 14th season building race cars on some level or another. And they’re also why the Dale Jr. Foundation exists. I’m just as proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish there as anything we’ve ever done on the racetrack.”
An accomplished driver, evidenced by his 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories and two NASCAR Nationwide Series championships, Earnhardt was cited just as much for his achievements outside his No. 88 Chevrolet, namely as the owner of JR Motorsports and a tireless community benefactor.
This season, JR Motorsports driver Chase Elliott became the youngest competitor to win a NASCAR national series championship after clinching the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series title. The 18 year old will likely join Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick and Cole Whitt as Sprint Cup regulars who have developed under Earnhardt full time at the Nationwide level.
In addition to his Nationwide Series program, Earnhardt contributes to racing at its grassroots levels, fielding Late Model or Street Stock cars since founding JR Motorsports. His Late Model drivers Josh Berry and William Byron finished first and second, respectively, this season in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt’s work extends off the track into the community. He has made 235 appearances on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a number that ranks in the top five among professional athletes. Furthermore, his Dale Jr. Foundation raised $913,000 to be distributed to more than 70 different charities.
“I’m just as proud of what we’ve accomplished there as anything we’ve ever done on the race track,” Earnhardt said about his foundation.
Earnhardt thanked the National Motorsports Press Association, the Myers family, NASCAR and those that help support the lower tiers of racing, including local track owners.
But he had one final group to thank.
“Lastly, I want to thank the fans. You are what makes NASCAR what it is,” he said. “Your contributions to the sport are endless. You do it with your time, your energy, your money, your livelihoods, and all you ask in return is that we go out there and give our very best.
“What an incredible honor this is. I hope you guys have good holidays. Thank you very much.”
The NMPA Myers Brothers Award has been presented annually since 1958 in the names of pioneer NASCAR competitors Billy and Bobby Myers and its winner is chosen by a vote of the National Motorsports Press Association. Past recipients are a virtual who’s-who of the industry – drivers, owners, track operators, sponsors and members of the media – and include nearly every current member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
CREDIT: Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR