Dale Earnhardt Jr. honored at 2017 NASCAR Awards in Las Vegas

The fans have spoken—and not surprisingly—Dale Earnhardt Jr., won his 15th consecutive Most Popular Driver Award.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. honored at 2017 NASCAR Awards in Las Vegas
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

But with each passing year, the accolade from the fans has taken on deeper meaning for the driver.

“When I started winning this award, it was all about the popularity of a driver, but now, as I’ve gotten older, I realize that the award represents the sport’s accessibility,” Earnhardt told motorsport.com. “We touted our accessibility to the fans as something that sets us apart from other sports and makes us unique. It’s something we take a lot of pride in. The trophy itself is representative of that access. 

“So I’ve learned over the years, it’s not just a popularity award about one individual. It’s really about an entire fan base that puts the effort in to not only vote for the award but to cheer for that driver and support him week in and week out, to go to the events, to go to the races and watch on TV, follow absorb all the content. It’s a large journey for the fans as much as it is for the industry in this sport. But I think as you get older and win the award you realize that it’s not about you. It’s much more than that.”

With 26 wins and 15 poles in 631 Cup starts, Earnhardt hasn’t had the flashiest career. Over the last two season, times have been tough for his loyal fan base. But Earnhardt knows without Junior Nation there would not have been 15 Most Popular titles.

“Our fans take a ton of pride in voting for it—and they take a ton of pride in winning it,” Earnhardt said. “It’s a victory for the whole fan base. It was something we’re very proud of—I always have been. It was nice to get an opportunity to get there and we thank the fans for that.

Another special award

In addition to the latest trophy, NASCAR chairman Brian France acknowledged Earnhardt with the award named for his grandfather and founder of the sport. .

“The Bill France Award of Excellence is not given out every year,” France said on stage at the awards ceremony. “It’s for the ultimate achievement and contribution to the sport they love—NASCAR. Sometimes it’s on the track. Sometimes it’s off the track. And every once in a while, it’s both. 

“Tonight, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the recipient of the Bill France Award of Excellence.”

The award came as quite a surprise to Earnhardt.

“The Myers Brothers Award and the Bill France Award, those types of things are so personal,” Earnhardt said. “They really dig in there and hit your feelings. It’s an incredible feeling for someone to know that you’re worth that acknowledgement. I’m grateful that the sport feels that way and it inspires you to continue to be an asset and represent the sport well and continue to help it grow.

“It makes you want to earn that recognition.”

A year ago, after Earnhardt had sat out half of the 2016 NASCAR season sidelined with a concussion, he wasn’t sure if the opportunity existed to end his career on his own terms. A confirmation test at Darlington Raceway cleared the way for his 18th and final season in the Cup Series. 

“I’m so glad I’m in this place I’m in right now,” Earnhardt said. “Those were some difficult times and some concerning times. I didn’t know how the test was going to go. I didn’t know how I was going to feel in the car. There were a lot of questions and I had been out of the car for a while.

“It was a very difficult time. This is not difficult. Obviously, this is a little sad. But there’s a lot of joy and it’s been a great year to reflect. I was thankful to be able to compete all season—to compete one more season and close the book the way we wanted to close it and close it ourselves.”

 

shares
comments
Erik Jones has high hopes for first Cup season with JGR
Previous article

Erik Jones has high hopes for first Cup season with JGR

Next article

Dale Jr. weighs in on who could be NASCAR's next Most Popular Driver

Dale Jr. weighs in on who could be NASCAR's next Most Popular Driver
Load comments
How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory Prime

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

From villain to hero, Kyle Larson had to reach his lifelong goal the hard way and go through a very public shaming after a ban for using a racial slur, but his talents shone long before his name grabbed the headlines...

NASCAR Cup
Nov 10, 2021
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Prime

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organization - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR Cup
Aug 31, 2021
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021