Dale Earnhardt Jr. Makes it Two in a Row; Wins Grands! Biscuits NMPA NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award
Nearly 4 million votes cast by race car fans nationwide
NEW YORK (Friday, December 3, 2004) - Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued to set standards among NASCAR fans nationwide in 2004. For the second straight year, fans voted Earnhardt, Jr. the Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits NMPA NASCAR Most Popular Driver. The announcement was made today during the National Motorsports Press Association's (NMPA) Myers Brothers Awards Breakfast at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
Earnhardt, Jr. becomes just the fifth driver in the award's history to have won in consecutive years, joining Bobby Allison, Richard Petty, Bill Elliott and Darrell Waltrip. A year ago, his selection by race fans made Earnhardt, Jr. and his father, Dale Earnhardt, the only father-son combination to have won NASCAR's oldest and most traditional off-track honor.
"It was fun to win it last year, but to get two in a row really means a lot to me," said Earnhardt, Jr. "I've learned this year about how loyal and supportive my fans are. My team had our best season ever, but we also had a lot of trouble along the way, including my injuries. I used to worry about losing my fans after a bad race or two, but I found out this year the fans really got behind me when I needed it the most. It's a big compliment to have that many fans voting for me and letting me know they're supportive and loyal no matter what."
Earnhardt, Jr. has led the voting since the start of the 2004 season, and easily captured enough votes in the record-setting 2004 year to again win the award. He finished with 1,487,512 votes, which exceeds the combined vote totals of the following six drivers.
"Dale Jr. is obviously a fan favorite, and this just confirms that," said Kenny Bruce, president of the National Motorsports Press Association. "All of the drivers in NASCAR racing have fans who support them wholeheartedly, and I think it's great what the Earnhardt fans have done. We are grateful to all of the NASCAR fans who were part of the voting process, and we feel they made a good choice."
A record 3.8 million votes were cast in 2004, marking the third straight year more than 3 million votes were cast via the Web site, www.mostpopulardriver.com. Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits, the third-year sponsor of the award which is administered by the NMPA, has worked to reach fans since voting launched with the season-opening Daytona 500.
"It's been a great honor for us to bring this award to the fans and recognize Dale as their favorite driver," said Annie Zipfel, marketing manager for Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits at General Mills. "We'll continue to share the excitement of this announcement with fans by posting award ceremony highlights on www.mostpopulardriver.com. After all, the fans are really what this award is all about."
Following Earnhardt Jr. in the 2004 Most Popular Driver Award final standings were drivers Jeff Gordon (496,362) and Kevin Harvick (249,228), who finished second and third respectively. Rounding out the top 10 in descending order of votes were Michael Waltrip (225,011), Tony Stewart (185,486), Kasey Kahne (178,280), Dale Jarrett (127,423), Mark Martin (98,461), Jimmie Johnson (92,828) and Bobby Labonte (80,680). More than 40 drivers received votes.
NASCAR's Most Popular Driver Award dates back to 1956. It began as a simple poll of the drivers and grew to incorporate all NASCAR Cup competitors. Later, it included all NASCAR members. Today, it is a prestigious award voted on by racing fans nationwide. Through the years, the voters' choices have ranged from the obvious to the surprising. Bill Elliott won the award 16 times before retiring his name from the Most Popular Driver Award voting at the beginning of the 2003 season. Richard Petty won the award nine times.