MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – JR Nation has spoken once again. Fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr. voted the Sprint Cup Series driver the NASCAR NMPA Most Popular Driver for the ninth straight year.
Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, earned the award after receiving the most online fan votes among all eligible drivers throughout the 2011 racing season. The trophy presentation was held at the National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers ceremony Thursday in Las Vegas.
Fans cast nearly 1.5 million total votes throughout the 2011 campaign, voting up to once per day for their favorite driver. The field was narrowed to 10 finalists and the vote counts were reset to zero for the final 10 races of the season. The nine other finalists were (in alphabetical order): Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart.
“It’s a big honor. My fans have been real supportive throughout my career,” Earnhardt said. “This has been a little bit of a turnaround year from the last couple of years, and we want to keep getting better on the racetrack and give our fans what they expect. We’ve got a lot of momentum going into 2012, and I’m proud to accept this award on behalf of all the fans who voted.”
Bill Elliott holds the record for most consecutive Most Popular Driver wins with 10, and he also holds the overall record with 16 awards. He removed himself from voting after earning the honor the 16th time.
“Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fans showcase the passion NASCAR drivers can instill,” said Rea White, president of the National Motorsports Press Association. “The NMPA appreciates all the fans who vote to make this award an important part of NASCAR.”
Since 1956, the NASCAR NMPA Most Popular Driver Award has recognized NASCAR's most beloved Sprint Cup driver. The award has been won by champions such as Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Allison, Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip. It is still the only NASCAR award determined solely by the fans.