LAS VEGAS (AP) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. set a record Thursday with his 11th consecutive win as NASCAR’s most popular driver.
Earnhardt, who was presented with the NASCAR NMPA Most Popular Driver Award at the annual Myers Brothers luncheon, broke a tie with 16-time winner Bill Elliott for the most consecutive years as winner.
“I don’t really keep track of the stats or the score, but Bill was a great driver and ambassador for the sport,” Earnhardt said. “He represents the sport really well to this day, as does his son Chase, who’s coming up and carrying on the family name. But, I’ve always looked up to Bill as a driver so it’s pretty neat.”
Earnhardt’s run has required renovations at JR Motorsports, where his trophies are kept. Two trophy cases have either had to be rebuilt or installed to hold his first 10 trophies.
Earnhardt thanked his loyal fan base, which continuously votes him tops in the Sprint Cup Series. More than 1 million votes were cast for 39 drivers, and although fans could only vote once per day, Earnhardt still collected more than 700,000.
“It humbles me deeply to know that you have so many fans in your corner each race weekend,” Earnhardt said. “There are a lot of motivating factors in life that drive our race team to be the best we can but none impact us more than the support of our race fans that they’ve shown over the years. We thank you for your devotion to NASCAR and we look forward to giving you a lot to be excited about in 2014.”
Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon, Earnhardt’s teammates at Hendrick Motorsports, finished second and third in voting. Fourth went to Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick was fifth.
Only 17 drivers have won the most popular driver award since its inception in 1956. Elliott removed his name from consideration following his 16th victory in 2002.
Earnhardt’s streak began the next season.
“We always have such great support from our fans,” Earnhardt said. “They always come through every year, and this year we feel like we were giving them a lot to cheer for on the race track and paying them back for all the years they’ve voted for us to win this award.”