NMPA Most Popular Driver Award

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NASCAR drivers sound off on the search for star power

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On Thursday night, NASCAR officially crowned its newest Cup champion and its first new most popular driver in 15 years.

Joey Logano was recognized as champion after 10 years in the series, and Chase Elliott won the majority of fan votes after three years (and the retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won it 15 years in a row).

The Cup champion and the series’ most popular driver have not synched up in 30 years. It last occurred in 1988 when Hall of Famer Bill Elliott won his only title and the fifth of his record 16 most popular driver awards.

NASCAR has seen a mass exodus of its biggest stars in the last five years with the retirements of four-time champion Jeff Gordon, three-time champion Tony Stewart, Earnhardt, Danica Patrick and Carl Edwards prior to 2018.

Out of that group only Earnhardt won most popular driver.

After Thursday’s banquet, three of the four Championship drivers, including Logano, were asked what they need to do to find and establish themselves as the next big stars in the same vein as those who have recently hung up their helmets.

Here’s what they had to say.

Kevin Harvick

“That’s never going to happen. I think as you look at our sport and you look at the Elliott name and the Earnhardt name, those are names that a guy like myself (a native of California) and Clint Bowyer (Kansas native) and Kyle Larson (California) are never going to overcome. You will never have the Southern, the Southeast fan base that an Earnhardt or an Elliott has. That’s just the way it’s going to be.”

Kyle Busch

“Changes of the guard always happen. I’m now in my 14th season, something like that, so I’ve been here for a long time. I guess it’s not necessarily my time at the forefront. But I feel as if I’ve learned a tremendous amount and it’s sort of coming down to the point now where you have that opportunity to be able to go out there with all that you’ve learned and now have success.

What do you and the other leaders need to do to establish yourselves as the next Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr., Tony Stewart, etc.?

“Good question, I just think for some reason we’re just not quite getting the same amount of attention that we’ve had years ago. Why that is, I’m not sure. I think the racing is so competitive and some of the most compelling racing in all of motorsports. It’s exciting to me behind the wheel each time. You look at Chicagoland, we don’t have those finishes every week. But people strive for those finishes every week and tell me how many times those finishes have happened in the course of our lifetime. There’s been thousands and thousands of races and there’s probably hundreds of times people talk about great finishes in out sport. It’s just so competitive, everybody wants the picture perfect finish and the excitement of (that) every week.”

Joey Logano

“I think Chase is deserving, a deserving member of that. He does a great job as our most popular driver. … Yeah, we all knew that (he would win). You can tell just by the T-shirts walking around. But like I said in my speech, love me or hate me, the fact that you love NASCAR means the most to me. Honestly, that’s what keeps every one of us that are standing around here employed. That’s a big deal for the growth of our sport. For me, I’m a fan before I was a driver and I’m still a fan before I’m a driver. When you think of what it means just to watch racing and to be a race fan and watching it and enjoying every second of it, that’s me. That’s who I am. I’m passionate about the people that I like and the ones I don’t root for in other sports You have to have that. You have to have ones you really like and the ones you don’t. That’s just part of it. I think being a hard racer, sometimes that’s what brings out the boos. Like I said, that doesn’t bother me because I know they’re passionate people and I like people that are passionate.

On driver personalities

“We have big personalities still, which is great. Everyone has their own. I don’t think we’re as vanilla as you think. There’s plenty of interesting personalities. You got Kyle Busch, he’s got so much personality. It’s great. Everyone is just who they are. I like that part. I like that everyone is who you are and not fake. You obviously want to do the right thing for your sponsors, but still being who you is still most important piece.’

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Chase Elliott wins NMPA Most Popular Driver Award

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Chase Elliott has won the National Motorsports Press Association’s Most Popular Driver Award.

Elliott received the award voted on by fans Thursday night at the Cup Awards banquet in Las Vegas.

Elliott, 23, is the first new winner of the award in 15 years. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won it every year from 2003 until his retirement from Cup racing after the 2017 season.

Earnhardt presented Elliott with the award.

“It definitely is an honor,” Elliott said. “As it got a little closer, I’m glad it worked out like it did. … Somebody asked me earlier about it, what would it mean? It’s always hard to say what it would mean when you don’t know. … I think beyond all that, just seeing the fire at the race track and how fired up people were to see me and my team do good throughout the season and all the right hats and T-shirts, that to me is probably the biggest piece of it.”

The Hendrick Motorsports driver follows his father, Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, who won the award 16 times (1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002).

A driver not named Elliott or Earnhardt last won the award in 1990 (Darrell Waltrip).

Elliott earns the award after his third full-time season in Cup. He broke through with the first three wins of his Cup career. The first came at Watkins Glen International in August. He followed that with playoff victories at Dover and Kansas.

Elliott was eliminated from the playoffs after the Round of 8.

 

Cup Most Popular Driver voting now open

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Voting for this year’s National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Most Popular Driver Award presented by Hooters opened today at Noon ET.

The award will go to the most popular Cup driver, which will be a driver not named Earnhardt for the first time since Bill Elliott in 2002. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the most popular driver from 2003 until his retirement following the 2017 season.

Fans can cast a vote for a single driver once a day at www.nascar.com/mostpopulardriver or on the NASCAR Mobile app. Votes shared by fans on Facebook or Twitter count double.

Voting closes at Noon on Tuesday, Nov. 27. The winner will be announced during the Cup Series Awards program Thursday, Nov. 29 at the Wynn Las Vegas. NBCSN, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will provide coverage of this year’s program.

Nineteen drivers have received the award at least once since the program began. Elliott, a NMPA Hall of Fame member and the 1988 Cup Series champion, holds the record for most popular driver award wins with 16 coming in 1984 to 1988, 1991 to 2000 and 2002.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins Most Popular Driver Award for record 15th consecutive year

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his record-extending 15th consecutive – and final – NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on Thursday night.

Earnhardt was presented the award by Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards show at Wynn Las Vegas.

“Thanks for all you’ve done for the sport,” Jarrett told Earnhardt.

“I’ve got to thank the fans,” Earnhardt said. “Without them none of the opportunities I had in racing would have happened. It always comes back to the fans.”

WATCH: NBCSN airs Cup Series Awards Show at 9 p.m. ET. (Watch Cup Awards Show online here)

Earnhardt, who announced in April this would be his final full-time season Cup season, will miss breaking Bill Elliott’s record of 16 career Most Popular Driver Awards.

Even so, Earnhardt dedicated his final Cup season to the fans with an appreciation tour.

Completing the top 10 in this year’s voting were (listed alphabetically): Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Danica Patrick and Martin Truex Jr.

In his speech, Busch joked to Earnhardt: “To Dale, thanks for the friendship that we’ve grown over the years, and of course for you converting Junior Nation into Rowdy fans. It’s all going to be very different getting all those cheers next year at driver intros.”

Also, NASCAR Chairman Brian France presented Earnhardt with the Bill France Award of Excellence, an award that is not always given.

“It’s a real honor, I always tell people all the time that all I wanted to do in racing was to pay my bills and race for a long time,” Earnhardt said of receiving the Bill France Award.

NMPA Most Popular Driver Award winners

Year    Winner

2017    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2016    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2015    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2014    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2013    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2012    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2011    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2010    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2009    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2008    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2007    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2006    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2005    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2004    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2003    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2002    Bill Elliott

2001    Dale Earnhardt

2000    Bill Elliott

1999    Bill Elliott

1998    Bill Elliott

1997    Bill Elliott

1996    Bill Elliott

1995    Bill Elliott

1994    Bill Elliott

1993    Bill Elliott

1992    Bill Elliott

1991    Bill Elliott

1990    Darrell Waltrip

1989    Darrell Waltrip

1988    Bill Elliott

1987    Bill Elliott

1986    Bill Elliott

1985    Bill Elliott

1984    Bill Elliott

1983    Bobby Allison

1982    Bobby Allison

1981    Bobby Allison

1980    David Pearson

1979    David Pearson

1978    Richard Petty

1977    Richard Petty

1976    Richard Petty

1975    Richard Petty

1974    Richard Petty

1973    Bobby Allison

1972    Bobby Allison

1971    Bobby Allison

1970    Richard Petty

1969    Bobby Isaac

1967    Cale Yarborough

1966    Darel Dieringer

1965    Fred Lorenzen

1964    Richard Petty

1963    Fred Lorenzen

1962    Richard Petty

1961    Joe Weatherly

1960    Rex White

1959    Jack Smith

1958    Glen Wood

1957    Fireball Roberts

1956    Curtis Turner

1955    Tim Flock

1954    Lee Petty

1953    Lee Petty

NMPA Most Popular Driver Award voting begins Sunday

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Voting for the National Motorsports Press Association’s Most Popular Driver Award opens Sunday and continues through 11:59 p.m. ET Nov. 19.

To vote, fans can visit nmpamostpopulardriver.com via desktop or the NASCAR Mobile app.

Voting is limited to one vote per person per email address per day. Fan are encouraged to share their votes through social media platforms.

Eligible drivers are those who have declared for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.

The award is administered by the NMPA and is the only major NASCAR award determined solely by a fan vote. It has been presented annually since 1953.

The winner of this year’s award will be announced during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards program Nov. 30 at Wynn Las Vegas. NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will provide coverage of this year’s program.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won the award each of the past 14 years.

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