The National Motorsports Press Association kicked off awards day Friday morning at the Starlight Roof of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. The breakfast, hosted by the Motorsport press, is a forum to recognize many of the year-end awards not included at the Winston Cup banquet.
In a ceremony Friday morning, the following awards were given out:
Bud Pole Award - Ryan Newman
Celvite Engine Builder Award - Mike Maywalt of Hendrick Motorsports #24 team
MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award - Tony Stewart
Mechanix Wear Pit Crew of the Year Award - #17 DeWalt team
Mobile1 Command Performance Award Driver of the Year - Ryan Newman
Outback Steakhouse Bloomin' Favorite Driver Award - Jimmie Johnson
USG Person of the Year Award - Ricky Craven
Waste Management Picking Up Places Award - Matt Kenseth
76 Gasoline Champions Award - Matt Kenseth
The most highly anticipated awards of the year were handed out at the close of the event. The NMPA Most Popular Driver was awarded to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who received over 3 million votes since February. His win also marks the first time a father and son have both won the award.
"That's nice, I like really big trophies. I'm gonna see if I can get this pushed back to a luncheon next year," said Earnhardt, known for his love of sleeping late. "It was great to wake up every Sunday morning and look into the grandstands and see a sea of red. I knew they were either Bill Elliott fans, or mine."
Earnhardt was also given the Goodyear Gatorback Fastest Lap Award, but Earnhardt seemed more concerned that maybe Goodyear should keep the check for $75,000.
"You might want to hold onto this," joked Earnhardt when handed the check. "I believe there is a blimp in the fleet in need of repair."
The 44th annual Myers Brothers Award was presented to RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company in recognition of their contribution to the sport. It was the fifth time the RJR was the recipient of the award. The award marks their 33-year commitment to NASCAR, as they depart as title sponsor.
The Myers Brothers award is voted on by members of the motorsports media recognizing outstanding achievements in NASCAR racing, it is named for Billy and Bob Myers.
The NMPA also recognized Unical76 exit from NASCAR after a 53-year partnership. Sunoco will become the official fuel of NASCAR in 2004.