CONCORD, N.C. – NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and the Most Popular Driver award are virtually synonymous.
After all, Elliott won the award a record 16 times.
Last weekend in Las Vegas, the Hall of Famer’s son – Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott – continued that family legacy, winning the 2018 National Motorsports Press Association Most Popular Driver award.
“Obviously, I’m lucky to have that heritage,” the younger Elliott said. “I had nothing to do with his success in the ’80s and people following along, but certainly try to be me now and if people like that, I certainly appreciate their support.”
Elliott was presented the award by former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won the award a record 15 consecutive times before stepping away from the NASCAR Cup Series following last season.
Keeping the award between the Elliott and Earnhardt families for so long struck the driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 as particularly special.
“Of all the history with it and Dale’s success and dad’s success, having it between Elliott and Earnhardt for I don’t know how many years now is kind of crazy,” he said. “So, to watch that come full circle and to be able to kind of carry that legacy at least for this year is special. I’ll certainly enjoy it.”
In learning more about the history of the award, Elliott found that one year stuck out as “probably the coolest” aspect of the history of the Elliotts and Earnhardts when it comes to the honor.
In 2001, Bill Elliott took his name out of the running for Most Popular Driver in deference to the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., who posthumously earned the award.
“Dale Jr. and I were talking a second ago about he accepted the award on behalf of his father that year, so he actually has accepted 16, much like my father,” Chase Elliott said. “So, just very cool. And you learn a lot through these experiences, but I thought that really said more than anything about why he’s won it so many years when he didn’t even enter it that season to make sure that Dale won it, and rightfully so.”
Now, it’s the younger Elliott taking home the hardware after his third full-time Cup Series season – a year in which he won his first three Cup races.
Along the way, he felt the support of the fans whether he was in Victory Lane or leaving the track disappointed in a result.
“I feel like the biggest thing that I noticed that was really recognizable was just how fired up people were about us, wanting me and my team to do good this year,” he said. “Seeing all the hats and T-shirts and things, those are the things that really hit home with me, seeing it at-track and seeing it live and in person.”
“At the end of the day, the votes are awesome – people taking their time to pull for us throughout the year. It’s a very cool honor.”