Media Selects Dale Earnhardt Jr. Switching Teams As Top Story Of 2007; Johnson's second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship voted second

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 5, 2007) -- In a year that was not short on storylines, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announcing that he was leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) at the end of the season and subsequently announcing he would be racing for Hendrick Motorsports in 2008 was voted the sport's top story for 2007 by members of the media. Earnhardt Jr. announced in May his intentions to leave the team that his father had built at season's end and a month later signed with Hendrick Motorsports.

Members of the media ranked the top highlights of the 2007 NASCAR season on NASCARMedia.com. A total of 141 votes were cast online between Nov. 26 and Dec. 4. Each highlight received 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for a second-place vote, eight points for a third-place vote, etc. down to one point for 10th.

Earnhardt's announcements garnered 64 first-place votes and finished with 1,243 points. Jimmie Johnson winning his second consecutive NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship earned 16 first-place votes and finished second with 1,028 points. Johnson became the first repeat champion in the series since Jeff Gordon successfully defended his championship in 1998.

Gordon passing Dale Earnhardt on the all-time wins list was voted the third top highlight of the year. The four-time champion picked up career wins number 76 and 77 at Phoenix International Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway, respectively, to move into sixth place all-time.

The close finishes at Daytona International Speedway were named the fourth top moment in 2007. The combined Margin of Victory in Kevin Harvick's thrilling Daytona 500 victory over Mark Martin (.020 seconds) and Jamie McMurray's Pepsi 400 win over Kyle Busch (.005 seconds) was only 0.025 seconds.

The introduction of the Car of Tomorrow at Bristol Motor Speedway was voted the fifth top story. The new car was the culmination of a seven-year research and development process by NASCAR and it raced 16 times in 2007. The car will race fulltime in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning next season.

The rest of the top 10 highlights of 2007, according to the media, are: Juan Pablo Montoya becoming the first Hispanic driver to win a race in NASCAR's top two series, Clint Bowyer winning his first career race as the No. 12 seed in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, Johnson outdueling Matt Kenseth for the win in the closing laps of the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, the thrilling finish in NASCAR's first-ever national series race in Canada and Ron Hornaday Jr. becoming the second driver in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history to win three championships.

-credit: nascar