NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The fans have spoken, and the legacy lives on for another year. Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott was named the 2019 NMPA Most Popular Driver on Thursday night during the year-end Champion’s Week banquet.
The annual award is determined 100% by fan voting, and Elliott, 24, topped the ballot for the second consecutive year.
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“Just an honor, really, and just a big thank you to everybody who voted,” Elliott said after the awards celebration. “Obviously it took a lot of votes to make it happen and everybody that took time to do that, I do really appreciate it. Like I said out there, too, it’s more than a trophy or a sticker or an award, really and truly. So I just really enjoyed this past season and just seeing all the people that were at the race track that wanted to see us do good. And you can genuinely feel that, and that goes a long way. So I appreciate it, and hopefully try to make everybody proud next year, too.”
There’s a history there, of course. Elliott’s father, Bill, won the award a record 16 times, including 10 consecutive years from 1991-2000.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the award 15 times, all consecutively from 2002-17 before his retirement, paving the way for Chase Elliott, who drives the No. 9 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, as the heir apparent.
“First off, it was really cool that Dale retired a year early,” Elliott said. “I think all Elliott fans appreciated that, so I think that’s really cool. To have now, I guess 18 awards going back to Dawsonville (Georgia) is pretty cool, and obviously I think a lot of that is due to him and his career and what he and his family built. It certainly isn’t all just me and what I’ve done. I haven’t done anything a drop in the bucket compared to what they did, and that’s the real reason where the core Elliott fan is, I feel like, is recognizing that.”
All told, the Earnhardt and Elliott families have held the award for 34 total years, nearly all of it consecutively. Only Darrell Waltrip’s back-to-back honors in 1989-90 broke up a run that began in 1984 when Bill Elliott won the award for the first time.
Chase Elliott won three races for the second straight year in 2019 and had 11 top-five finishes and 15 top 10s. His win at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval in the Round of 16 finale led to one of the most memorable burnouts and celebrations of the year.