NSCS: Lucky Number 13; Dale Earnhardt Jr. Once Again Captures NMPA Most Popular Driver Award

Jacob Seelman Featured, NASCAR, West 0 Comments

LAS VEGAS — Story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR photo —

Cue the 88, stage left! (Again!)

As has become all but ritual on Friday night at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Banquet, Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. was honored with the 2015 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Most Popular Driver Award.

Presented to the driver with the highest percentage of a fan vote as polled through www.mostpopulardriver.com and www.nascar.com, Friday night was the 13th consecutive year — dating back to 2003 — that the second-generation, Kannapolis, N.C. driver has received the ‘fan favorite’ crown.

“NASCAR fans are the greatest in all of sports,” said NMPA President Brian Nelson, “and I’m delighted that Sprint and the NMPA have given them an opportunity to voice their support. The fans spoke loud and clear, and it’s obvious they support Dale Jr.”

Earnhardt sits second on the all-time list of winners of the prestigious award, behind only Bill Elliott — who won it 16 times overall and most recently in 2002. He will receive the trophy, while the NMPA will donate $10,000 to the charity of his choice.

“I don’t know; you never expect to win this award until your name is actually called,” the driver of the now-iconic No. 88 Chevrolet admitted. “I don’t ever take this for granted. They (the fans) work tirelessly to support our team, not only in voting for the Most Popular Driver but throughout the whole year. They’re at the race track every week supporting us. I knew that they were going to fight hard to get us a 13th in a row, but you just never assume anything.”

“At the end of the day, I’m just humbled by this. This award is for Junior Nation. Thanks for the votes.”

Earnhardt also took an opportunity to have a little bit of fun with his fellow competitors in his speech as well, most notably late-season rivals Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano.

“There was that one point during the season that I thought Matt had it all wrapped up (laughs). You all saw the grandstands. I’m sorry, Joey, that’s mean,” he quickly added upon a shake of the head from the Team Penske driver, adding that Logano made a sizable charitable donation to his foundation late in the season.

“Joey’s a really nice guy. He needed a ride to Phoenix, so he called me up,” Earnhardt said. “He was in a bind. I let him on the plane and took him to Phoenix, and Monday morning he had a $10,000 donation (made) to our foundation. So, that says a lot about Joey Logano.”

Again though, he returned his discussion to the fans for a heartfelt thank you to all of them.

“But in all seriousness, I’ll say it again — I’m humbled by this award. Quite honestly, I’m floored. It makes me happy to be able to see that support and feel that love. It motivates our team, it really does … It fires me up and I work harder. I try to go give the best I can with that motivation that they give and it does affect how we race for the better, I feel like.”

“We’ll take this and celebrate it tonight, and then we’ll see all of you guys next year.”

 

About the Writer

Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.

The 21-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

Email Jacob at: speed77radio@gmail.com

Follow Jacob on Twitter: @Speed77Radio or @JacobSeelman77

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