Dale Earnhardt Jr. was awarded the 2003 Grands Biscuits NASCAR Most Popular Driver award today during ceremonies at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The award is based on voting by race fans around the world. Dale Jr. earned more than 1.3 million votes, which represents more than the combined total of the the remaining top-10 vote getters.
The "Most Popular Driver Award" is presented by the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA), and has been an active award since 1956. Dale Jr. joins his dad, seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, as the only father and son combination to win the award.
"That's cool. I like big trophies..." Junior joked at the award presentation. "No, really, this means a lot for me. It's a powerful thing to know how much fan support I have out there, and I try to never forget it. I'm grateful and thank all of the fans who voted for me."
Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team were also awarded a $75,000 bonus for the 2003 Goodyear Gatorback Fastest Lap Award. The team won the Fastest Lap Award at eight races this season, more than any other team. They were also tied for the league lead in the MBNA Halfway Leader Award. Both Dale Jr. and Tony Stewart led at the halfway mark of five races in 2003.
Dale Jr. will accept a check well in excess of $1 million this evening at the NASCAR Winston Cup Awards Banquet for his career-best third-place finish in the 2003 point standings. The Awards Banquet can be seen live this evening on the TNT cable network, beginning at 9 pm ET.