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Junior Again Named Most Popular

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Thursday, December 1 2011

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is The Man with the fans. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned the NASCAR NMPA Most Popular Driver for the ninth straight year it was announced Thursday.

Earnhardt won the award after receiving the most online fan votes among all eligible drivers throughout the 2011 racing season.

The trophy was presented by award sponsor Wheaties FUEL to Earnhardt Jr. at the National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers ceremony Thursday in Las Vegas, Nev.

Earnhardt, who drives for Hendrick Motorsports, has won 18 Sprint Cup races during his career but none since 2008 when he won at Michigan International Speedway.

In 2011, he won the pole for the Daytona 500.

Fans cast nearly 1.5 million total votes throughout the 2011 campaign, voting up to once per day for their favorite driver at www.WheatiesFuelMostPopularDriver.com. 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 Jr. 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 record for total wins with 16. 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, now sponsored by Wheaties FUEL, 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.

The contest once was decided by a poll among the drivers taken at the end of the season. Later, only the press was able to vote for the winner. Today, race fans from all over the world make the ultimate decision. General Mills became involved with the award in 2001 and today the Wheaties FUEL brand is the presenting sponsor.

Here is the complete list of Thursday’s award winners from the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon:

Myers Brothers Award: Drs. Joe and Rose Mattioli

NASCAR Foundation Track of the Year Award: Michigan International Speedway

Wheaties Fuel Most Popular Driver Award: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Buddy Shuman Award: Richard Childress

NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award: Toyota

Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award: Andy Lally

Growth Energy American Ethanol Green Flag Restart: Matt Kenseth

Coors Light Pole Award: Carl Edwards

Mobil 1 Driver of the Year Award: Tony Stewart

DIRECTV Crew Chief of the Year Award: Bob Osborne

MOOG Chassis Part Problem Solver of the Year Award: Alan Gustafson

O’Reilly Auto Parts Position Improvement Award: Tony Stewart

Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award: Roush Fenway Racing No.99

Mahle Engine Builder of the Year Award: Roush Yates Engines No. 99 (Doug Yates)

Goodyear Gatorback Belts & Hoses Fastest Lap Award: Kyle Busch

Sunoco Diamond Performance Award: Tony Stewart

Goodyear Tires Award: Tony Stewart

Champion Sponsor Award: Office Depot and Mobil 1

Champion Crew Chief: Darian Grubb

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Thursday, December 1 2011
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