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LAS VEGAS – After a season of #Appreci88ion for Dale Earnhardt Jr. there was one surprise left in store.

After being named the National Motorsports Press Association Most Popular Driver for the 15th consecutive year, the longest streak since the award was first presented in 1953, Earnhardt was presented the Bill France Award of Excellence by NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France.

“Many of you know the Bill France Award of Excellence is not given out every year,” France stated. “It’s for the ultimate achievement and contribution to the sport they love, NASCAR.”

Earnhardt shared his gratitude as he reflected on this capstone achievement.

“It’s a real honor,” he said. “I have to thank the fans because without them none of the opportunities that I’ve ever had in racing would have happened.”

Watch Earnhardt’s acceptance speech above, courtesy of NBC Sports.