Las Vegas, NV (Sports Network) – To no one’s surprise, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been voted as NASCAR’s most popular driver for the eight consecutive year.
Earnhardt Jr. received the National Motorsports Press Association Hamburger Helper Most Popular Driver Award during the NMPA’s Myers Brothers Award luncheon on Thursday in Las Vegas.
Fans cast more than 1.5 million total votes throughout the 2010 season. Earnhardt Jr. beat out nine other finalists (in alphabetical order): Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart.
“I want to thank the fans; they really make everything about this sport and this very moment here possible for all of us,” Earnhardt Jr. said during his acceptance speech.
Bill Elliott and Richard Petty are the only drivers who have won the award more times than Earnhardt Jr. Elliott took the honors a record 16 times, including 10 straight from 1991-2000. Petty received nine awards.
Earnhardt Jr. has finished no better than 21st in points the last two seasons, and has not won a Cup race since June 2008 at Michigan (93 races ago).
Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the No.48 Hendrick Motorsports team collected a total of six awards during the ceremony, which was held at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino.
Johnson will be honored for his record-extending fifth consecutive Sprint Cup championship during Friday night’s NASCAR Awards Ceremony at Wynn Las Vegas.
“I’m so honored to be the champion once again for our sport, and I look forward to representing our sport to the best of my ability next year,” Johnson said.
Pocono Raceway track owner Dr. Joseph Mattioli was honored with the Buddy Shuman Award, which is one of NASCAR’s most prestigious and longest-running prizes. Mattioli was not present for the ceremony.
“I’ve known everyone of the past 55 [Buddy Shuman Award] recipients, and they were good friends of my family,” Mattioli said during a videotaped speech. “When I look at the number of people who have received it already, I’m very proud and humble of everyone responsible.”
The late-Jim Hunter was named the recipient of the NMPA Myers Brothers Award. His career in motorsports spanned portions of six decades as a journalist and racetrack executive before he became NASCAR’s Vice President of Corporate Communications. Hunter died in October.
Hunter’s son, Scott, accepted the award on behalf of his family.
“This is an honor to accept this award on behalf of my father and your friend, Jim Hunter,” Scott Hunter said.
The award is named in honor of former NASCAR competitors Billy and Bobby Myers.
Here is the complete list of Thursday’s award winners from the 2010 NMPA Myers Brothers luncheon:
NMPA Myers Brothers Award – Jim Hunter
Buddy Shuman Award – Dr. Joseph Mattioli (Chairman and CEO of Pocono Raceway)
Hamburger Helper NMPA Most Popular Driver Award – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Home Depot Humanitarian Award – Tony Stewart
NASCAR Foundation Award – Daytona International Speedway
Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award – Kevin Conway
DirecTV Crew Chief of the Year Award – Gil Martin (Kevin Harvick’s crew chief)
Moog Chassis Parts Problem Solver of the Year Award – Gil Martin
MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Year Award – Hendrick Motorsports
Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award – Denny Hamlin’s No.11 pit crew
Mobil 1 Command Performance Driver of the Year Award – Kurt Busch
O’Reilly Auto Parts Position Improvement Award – Kevin Harvick
Goodyear Gatorback Fastest Lap Award – Jimmie Johnson
Tissot Pit Road Precision Award – Matt Kenseth’s No.17 pit crew
WIX Filters Lap Leader Award – Denny Hamlin
Coors Light Pole Award – Jamie McMurray
Sunoco Diamond Performance Award – Jimmie Johnson
Goodyear Award – Jimmie Johnson
Championship Sponsor Award – Lowe’s
Champion Crew Chief Award – Chad Knaus