Dale Earnhardt Jr. Takes Home Most Popular Driver Award
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished off the year like many believed he would, hoisting the NMPA Most Popular Driver Award at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series banquet.
It marks the 15th time the 43-year-old has won the award, and the 15th consecutive time. Only one driver has received the prize more times (Bill Elliott – 16) with Earnhardt being one of eight drivers to win it on multiple occasions.
“When I started winning this award it was all about the popularity of a driver,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “But now as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized this award represents the sport’s accessibility. We touted our accessibility to the fans as something that sets us apart from other sports; it makes us unique and it’s something we take a lot of pride in. The trophy itself is representative of that access. I’ve learned over the years it’s not really just a popularity award or about one individual. It’s really about the fan base that puts the effort in to not only vote for the award but to cheer for that driver and support him week in and week out.”
While on stage to accept the award, Earnhardt was also presented the Bill France Award of Excellence.
“The Bill France Award of Excellence is not given out every year,” France said on stage at the awards ceremony. “It’s for the ultimate achievement and contribution to the sport they love—NASCAR. Sometimes it’s on the track. Sometimes it’s off the track. And every once in a while, it’s both. Tonight, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the recipient of the Bill France Award of Excellence.”
The award was a surprise for Earnhardt, who stated it meant a lot to him personally.
“They really dig in there and hit your feelings,” Earnhardt said. “It’s an incredible feeling for someone to know that you’re worth that acknowledgement. I’m grateful that the sport feels that way and it inspires you to continue to be an asset and represent the sport well and continue to help it grow. It makes you want to earn that recognition.”
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