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Bruce , Cain reveal NASCAR Hall of Fame ballots
RELATED: Photos of Voting Day, inductees NASCAR.com was privileged to have two ballots cast as part of NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day on Wednesday. Senior writers Kenny Bruce and Holly Cain each submitted their five nominations for induction in the Class of 2017 and a vote for the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. A spirited discussion and voting process created one of the most intriguing classes in the stock-car shrine's history with Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons selected as Hall of Fame members. Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles received the Landmark Award. Here are Holly's and Kenny's ballots cast Wednesday with their choices for induction: Kenny Bruce Ron Hornaday Jr. No one dominated NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series like Hornaday, the only four-time series champ. He remains the leader in career wins, top-five and top-10 finishes in Truck Series history. Mark Martin. The working man's racer; Martin finished second in the premier series points battle five times and earned 40 wins in 882 career starts. His XFINITY Series record wasn't too shabby, either. Benny Parsons. Folks who knew Benny the Broadcaster might not know just how talented Parsons was behind the wheel of a race car. The 1973 premier series champion, Parsons won 21 times, including victories in the Daytona 500 (1975) and World 600 ('80). Raymond Parks. The Atlanta-based businessman not only provided much-needed financial assistance as the newly formed NASCAR governing body got up and running, but Parks was a successful car owner as well. His career as an owner peaked in 1949 when driver Red Byron won NASCAR's first Strictly Stock crown. A year earlier, Byron had won the group's first Modified title in a Parks-backed entry. Robert Yates. As an engine builder, Yates helped power Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough to 77 victories. As a car owner, his drivers won three Daytona 500 titles, 57 races and 48 poles. Landmark Award H. Clay Earles. His Martinsville Speedway was there from the beginning (actually before NASCAR was formed) and it remains a popular stop today as one of three short tracks on the premier series schedule. Keeping up with the changing landscape of the sport wasn't easy, and no one did it better than Mr. Earles. Holly Cain These are the Hall of Fame votes I considered the most worthy and timely, considering a ballot of 20 of the sport's most deserving people. I tried to decide on a well-balanced group of drivers, owners and technical people and considered time on the ballot, too. Some I did not vote for this year I feel like will be definite choices in the upcoming Hall of Fame votes. Red Byron. NASCAR's first champion should be in its Hall of Fame for historic reasons. He won NASCAR's very first race on Daytona Beach in 1948, won NASCAR's first "season" championship and then its first Strictly Stock title, which is the modern era Sprint Cup crown. Raymond Parks . He owned the first championship car driven by Red Byron and for many of the same reasons Bryon needs to be in the Hall, so does Parks. Even after the two early titles he fielded cars for greats such as Bob and Fonty Flock. He is the sport's heritage, its beginning. Benny Parsons . Many current NASCAR fans know Benny from his ease and skill behind the television microphone and camera once he retired from driving a race car, but he was an amazing competitor, too, winning NASCAR's two biggest trophies -- the 1973 Cup championship and the 1975 Daytona 500 . Perhaps most amazingly, he finished among the top 10 in 54 percent of the races he ran. Waddell Wilson. It is impressive Wilson was so successful both as an engine builder and a crew chief. He built the motors that David Pearson and Benny Parsons drove to titles and as a crew chief led Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough (twice) to Daytona 500 wins. He built the first engine that broke 200 mph -- driven by Parsons in qualifying for the 1982 Winston 500. Robert Yates. This is another example of the ultimate in successful multi-tasking. Similar to Wilson, he built championship-quality engines (1983 with Bobby Allison) and then Yates owned a championship team, fielding the car with which Dale Jarrett won a title in 1999. He owns three Daytona 500 wins as part of a 57-win legacy as a team owner and won 77 races as an engine builder. Landmark Award Ralph Seagraves. This was a tough category. My selection was based on his contribution really being a turning point for the entire sport. Under Seagraves' leadership, RJ Reynolds provided top-dollar, high-promotion sponsorship of the sport that lasted for more than 30 years. It thrust NASCAR into another stratosphere as far as the American sports landscape was concerned and absolutely created a foundation that is still enjoyed today.
Bruce : Dale Earnhardt unchallenged for title of best driver ever
NASCAR.com's Kenny Bruce compares Jimmie Johnson to the 'Intimidator' RELATED: Johnson wins at Dover for 10th time The greatest NASCAR driver of all time is … Jimmie Johnson ? That's the word on the street, or in this case the voice on the radio, and since the bluegrass channel was on a commercial break I decided to stick around long enough to hear how that particular conclusion was reached. Such comparisons are inevitable – it's the sort of thing that arises when one is chasing legends. No different than when Jeff Gordon was piling up victories and championships in pursuit of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. No different than when Earnhardt was piling up victories and championships in pursuit of Petty. And no different than when Petty began piling up wins and titles on his way to overtaking a host of former champions, including his father, Lee, the first to win three NASCAR premier series championships. What the 39-year-old Johnson has managed to accomplish in little more than 13 full seasons in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series certainly puts him in the same league with Petty and Earnhardt, NASCAR's only seven-time champions. There's no doubt that Johnson, fit and trim and now only two wins away from matching Earnhardt's career win total of 76 victories, is one of the sport's greatest drivers. But is he No. 1? From a numbers standpoint, the Hendrick Motorsports driver will undoubtedly surpass Earnhardt's win total, and it's likely he'll eventually capture a seventh championship. He could, in fact, become the first driver to win more than seven titles. That would make him the most successful driver from a championship standpoint (neither he nor anyone else will come close to Petty's mark of 200 career wins), but will that make him NASCAR's greatest driver? No. That designation, without question, belongs to Earnhardt. Statistics are a great way to gauge success. But it takes more than numbers to measure greatness. Johnson has managed to excel during what some claim is the most competitive era in the history of NASCAR. Yes, there are more winners, on average, today. But there are also more races on the schedule, thus also more opportunities. A larger number of teams run the full schedule today, although that doesn't necessarily mean there are more "better" teams competing. Earnhardt never ran a season consisting of 36 points races; Johnson's never run in fewer than 36. Earnhardt never had the opportunity to compete at Kansas, Chicago or Kentucky; but by the same token, Johnson never raced at North Wilkesboro or Riverside. I have a strong feeling both could have won at those tracks given the chance. I'll argue that the talent pool Earnhardt often faced was just as deep – with lineups including drivers such as Petty and Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett, Geoff Bodine and Harry Gant. Eventually Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace, Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Tim Richmond and others took their place. Most were champions; many are already members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Johnson is one of the greatest drivers that today's fans will ever see. What he has done has been nothing short of amazing. If one wants to argue that he would not have won 74 races and six championships had it not been for Hendrick Motorsports and Chad Knaus, the same could be said of Earnhardt, who owed much of his success to Richard Childress Racing and the talented group he worked with there. But what elevates Earnhardt above the rest is more than the fact that he was so successful. He provided fans with some of the sport's most memorable moments during his two-plus decades. Among them: winning the pole at Watkins Glen in '96 (and setting the track qualifying record, to boot) just two weeks after suffering a broken collarbone and sternum in a vicious crash at Talladega; climbing from his damaged car and into the ambulance, only to quickly exit and return to his car once he realized it would still run, at Daytona in '97; his first and only Daytona 500 victory the following season, a win that erased 19 years of heartbreak. There was the "rattle his cage" incident with Terry Labonte en route to victory in the night race at Bristol in '99; the wrongly-termed but aptly promoted "pass in the grass" on his way to winning the 1997 All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway ; and the charge from 18th to first in the final five laps of the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway . For two decades, greatness drove a Chevrolet and it carried the number 3. They were memorable moments that elevated the sport and defined the man. Johnson can win more races and win more championships, but he can't match that. He needn't worry – no one else can, either. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Bruce : Family theme flows through 2017 Hall of Fame inductions
RELATED: Class of 2017 enters Hall of Fame CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The name on the card for Friday night's NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony read "Forever Legends." But after watching and listening to the Hall's eighth class as each was welcomed into the Hall, perhaps "Forever Family" would have been more fitting. "How great is that, to have your wife and your two grandsons to induct you into the NASCAR Hall of Fame?" asked Richard Childress, who rose to prominence as the owner of Richard Childress Racing , his teams winning 12 championships across NASCAR's three national series. Childress, fellow car owners Rick Hendrick and Raymond Parks, and drivers Mark Martin and Benny Parsons made up this year's Hall of Fame class. And much like Childress, others paid tribute to family and the family atmosphere that has permeated NASCAR practically since it's 1948 incorporation. NASCAR drivers Austin and Ty Dillon introduced their grandfather on the special night. Although Childress is 71, Ty Dillon noted that he doesn't believe his grandfather "will ever stop pursuing his passion." "He will continue to live his life, fighting to keep this ground which we stand on tonight the best in the world," Dillon said. "He will always keep going to the track because that is what he loves to do, but most of all, he loves his family." Family was also what drove Mark Martin to never give up on his dream, returning to the sport to rebuild a career that was halted almost before it began. With a wife by his side and four young children, Martin feverishly worked his way back into NASCAR to earn a second chance. More than three decades later, after 96 wins in NASCAR's three top series and five runner-up finishes in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points battle, Martin stood on stage and officially joined the list of racing legends. "Tonight," he said, "for me is about recognizing the VIPs that made this happen. But the MVP is Arlene Martin. "We met Christmas 1983, and Arlene, from that day, that day and every day since then, you have made me better. It's incredible what we've seen and what we've done to get here." RELATED: Martin recalls second chance, relishes induction Emotions were kept in check, somewhat. Voices did crack on occasion. No surprise there. This was, after all, a big, big deal. "We are like a big family, even though it's a lot of us, we care about each other, and I don't care if people think that's corny," Hendrick, who was a racer himself long before he built a successful auto dealership empire, said. "That's the way I was raised. It's worked for me, and it's worked in our companies, both of them." When Hendrick arrived at the Hall prior to the ceremony, one of the first people he saw was executive director Winston Kelley. Kelley, Hendrick said, told him that there was one thing he could tell the car owner and auto dealer about both his companies, that it was clear that his employees loved their boss. "And I said, 'You know what? Your telling me that means as much to me as getting into the Hall of Fame,'" Hendrick replied. It was every bit as much validation for what he had strived to become as the Hall of Fame ring he would receive just a few hours later. "I feel like 'job well done,'" Hendrick said, "because you look after your people and they look after you." Martin was still riding the adrenalin of the moment when he sat down with the media afterward. "I feel like I've had a cup of coffee or I've been playing some Gucci Mane," he said, grinning. Retired from racing since 2013, he now spends his days focused on more mundane matters. "How shiny can I get my motor home," he said. "I've got to get that trash and take it out. That lightbulb is burned out, damnit. ... "You know I just do all the things that I used to pay people to do. I still go like hell every day. That's the same ol' me." It had been an emotionally draining week for others. Those still entwined in the never-ending cycle of competition, where forward focus is key and there's no time for looking back. "It really was," Hendrick, a leukemia survivor, said. "... This has been the toughest week, besides losing a family member. "We're all emotions up and down, and we had a little champagne toast before I went in there, and the two doctors, the doctor that invented the medicine that saved my life was in there, and I lost it. I mean, Jeff Gordon said, 'I've never seen you that emotional in there since I've known you.'" NASCAR is one big extended family. Full of the quarrels that divide them and the emotional ties that draw them back together. "I meant what I said tonight about all the people in the sport," Hendrick said. "There are some great folks. Hendrick and Childress had spoken earlier in the day. Joe Gibbs phoned, unable to attend Friday's function but happy for his fellow team owner. So did Roger Penske. Just three short months earlier, Penske, Gibbs and Hendrick met with the media in Homestead, Florida, each having drivers competing for the championship. "We're racing each other and we're paying each other compliments," Hendrick said. "You wouldn't see that in the NFL. We want to beat each other just as bad as anybody, but it's really strange. It's a different deal. "I don't know what it is, but it's pretty special." Forever Legends? Sure. But forever family? There's no doubt. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Top 10 active driver-crew chief pairings
Kenny Bruce counts down the top active driver-crew chief pairings: Read more
What we're thankful for, NASCAR edition
The weather is getting colder, the leaves are changing colors, the days are getting shorter ... and there's no on-track NASCAR action for a while. All of the above means one thing: It's Thanksgiving. Given that this is a time to pause and reflect on the many things for which we are thankful, here are some of the many NASCAR-related things the editorial staff of NASCAR.com are thankful for: We are thankful for ... • Jimmie Johnson . NASCAR is fortunate that one of its greatest drivers is also one of its greatest men. -- Brad Norman • Martin Truex Jr .'s mean air guitar on the NASCAR on NBC intro song of "Bringing Back the Sunshine." Truex showed off his rock star-like ability on the track this season in one of the feel-good stories of 2016. Seeing Truex and girlfriend Sherry Pollex tackle her fight with cancer head-on has been especially impactful for me on a personal level as my mother was recently diagnosed with cancer. -- RJ Kraft • Kyle Larson 's penchant for riding the high line ever-so-close to the wall. It adds an element of edge-of-your-seat excitement to any race where he's running in the front because you never know what's going to happen next. -- George Winkler • Seeing the Tide car ride again at Darlington. -- Kathy Sheldon • Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s positivity and transparency. Not many athletes would let fans and media into a very personal concussion recovery process, but Junior has been as honest and upbeat as ever throughout his healing. His continued presence at the track and positive voice in the sport has been a blessing to us all. – Jessica Ruffin • Jimmie Johnson . Being able to work for NASCAR and have a front row seat to history being made with his seventh Sprint Cup Series championship is something I’ll never forget. I'm in awe of his talent. This must be what it was like working for the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. -- Pat DeCola • SAFER barrier and safety personnel. We haven't stopped writing about injuries, but the instances are much less frequent today. -- Kenny Bruce • Martin Truex Jr ., Sherry Pollex and Barney Visser, who had the courage to do something different and run a race team from Denver. All the time and effort the Furniture Row Racing team puts in is clearly paying off, and I look forward to watching them grow to two teams next season with Erik Jones . -- George Winkler • Night races in the summer heat. -- Kathy Sheldon • Short-track racing. The action at Bristol and Martinsville is typically among the most entertaining of the season. Richmond produced a bump-and-run between teammates in the spring, and Iowa also is a great track. Tempers tend to flare at the smaller venues, and the racing is among the tightest you'll see all season. -- RJ Kraft • Local short tracks. Dirt? Asphalt? Quarter-mile? Three-eighths? Yes. -- Brad Norman • Daytona in February and Homestead in November. There aren't two better places, or tracks, to begin and end a season. All the ones in between? Yeah, they're pretty nice, too. -- Kenny Bruce
H2H: Debating Johnson's place in NASCAR history
RELATED: Champion's Week preview " Streaming schedule When Jimmie Johnson made history at Homestead-Miami Speedway with his record-tying seventh championship, it gave the sport of stock-car racing a moment to reflect on the accomplishment and to debate Johnson's place in its history. With just more than a week's worth of a cool-down lap of their own to let the moment sink in, our Holly Cain and Kenny Bruce offer their perspectives on the newly crowned "Seven-Time" in this week's head-to-head: 1. With a seventh championship tying Jimmie Johnson with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, how do you rank the three considering the eras in which they competed? Cain: Accessing seven-time champions is ironically a no-win situation. Each driver earned the big trophy in markedly different eras under far different circumstances. Petty's team had to be as tough as it was good. Earnhardt's team was tested against future Hall of Famers under a new and increasingly bright spotlight. And Johnson had to earn his titles under multiple championship scenarios against a field of competition representing the deepest talent level in the sport's history. Bruce : I agree with Holly to a point. You can't fairly compare the three drivers because their success came in such different times. The sport was so different when Petty won his seven titles, with teams racing as many as 62 times a season. It was a test of endurance as much as anything. Earnhardt won his titles when attrition was still a concern, but the cars were better and depth of talent within the teams greater. Johnson's success has come under various points formats, various rules packages and against some of the best talent the sport has ever seen. But … if you're ranking the three purely on a "most talented" level, then it's a no-brainer. The answer is … 2. Would an eighth championship in Johnson’s column change your view? Cain: Should Johnson win an eighth -- and I believe he will -- there should be no lingering doubts about his toughness, tenacity and talent -- the latter something this seven-time champ is never given enough credit for. Bruce : It depends on the circumstances. I already believe he's one of the best to ever compete in the sport, so one more title won't really change how I view him there. But if he continues to compete at such a high level and can still be successful, I'll be even more impressed with any future accomplishments. 3. How do you assess the chances of Johnson and the No. 48 team achieving title No. 8? Cain: For Johnson to have earned seven trophies under a revolving door of championship competition and format changes is a triumph in and of itself. At only 41 years old -- two years younger than Earnhardt when he won his seventh and the same age as Petty when he hoisted his seventh -- there is reason to believe Johnson has an incredibly favorable shot to make more NASCAR history. The pressure is off. Petty ranked in the championship top five only three more times after winning his seventh title. Earnhardt was runner-up two more times (in 1995 and 2000). Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus really only have more history to aspire to, and lots of time to attain it. It's "all good" was never more apropos. Bruce : The current championship-determining format doesn't lend itself to repeat champions -- witness three different winners in the three years of the elimination format. No driver has made the final four all three times either. And there's a very good chance that once you make it to the final, you have to win the race to win the title. It took the No. 48 team three years to make it to the final round and I don't think it’s a given that they'll be back next year. Under other formats, I'd rate their chances as great. Now, though, I’m less willing to be so positive. They've got time, but that's what we said about Jeff Gordon , too, when he began pursuing title No. 5 -- in 2002.
NASCAR.com staff predicts 2016 Sprint Cup champion
RELATED: Stats breakdown reveals championship favorite Carl Edwards : Went with the No. 19 as a championship pick on my pre-Chase grid, thinking the postseason schedule lined up favorably. The Championship 4 -- especially this season -- is a toss-up, but Edwards' history at Homestead (two wins, two poles) may tip the scales. -- Zack Albert Joey Logano : The Team Penske driver has been loose and fast throughout the Chase and comes into this weekend's race with much-needed final-round experience. Crew chief Todd Gordon is one of the best. -- Kenny Bruce Jimmie Johnson : Jimmie was my preseason pick to win his seventh championship, and I feel even better about the selection now. No one in his era is better at winning titles and he has shown the ability to do whatever is necessary at Homestead to secure the prized hardware. -- Holly Cain Jimmie Johnson : Now that Johnson has figured out how to outlast his competition in the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format, don't expect him to let a historic seventh championship slip from his grip. -- Pat DeCola Kyle Busch : The Joe Gibbs Racing driver enters with the least amount of pressure as the defending champion, and that should lead to a relaxing and celebration-filled weekend in Miami. -- RJ Kraft Joey Logano : Over the last four races he's won twice, led for 302 laps and has finished no worse than ninth. To say he's on fire is an understatement. -- Maggie MacKenzie Kyle Busch : Let's not overthink this. The defending champion is back in the title race, as the best driver on the best team in NASCAR. He also has been the best driver in the Chase, with six top-five finishes through nine races. Busch repeats. -- Brad Norman Jimmie Johnson : Johnson & Co. showed speed in practice and fought through a tough qualifying session, proving they have the calm resilience -- and long-run speed -- needed to win the coveted title No. 7. -- Jessica Ruffin Carl Edwards : All the reminders of that tiebreaker loss in 2011 have stoked the fire of title desire. Edwards' No. 19 has the speed, and we know JGR equipment is stout. A will and a way combine for a championship. -- Kathy Sheldon Carl Edwards : Sentimentally, I'd like to see him get redemption for 2011 and for Concrete Carl to cement a Hall of Fame-worthy career, but he's also a good pick from a stats perspective. He has the best average finish at Homestead among the Championship 4 drivers and the most career wins there (two). -- George Winkler
NASCAR Hall of Fame voter Kenny Bruce reveals ballot
Whittling list down to just five always a tough task
Chase pursuit, Truck Series tussle remain hot topics
RELATED: Provisional Chase grid " Series standings With just one regular-season race left before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is locked in, several pressing questions remain. Before playoff time ramps up in earnest for all three national series, NASCAR.com reporters Kenny Bruce and Zack Albert sat down to discuss a trio of topics before this weekend's events at Richmond International Raceway : Among the drivers who haven't won so far this year, who is your favorite to score a last-minute victory to secure their ticket for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs? Bruce : The veterans on the outside of the Chase haven't run well enough of late to be a threat while the youngsters lack the experience. But give the kids a nod at Richmond, specifically Chase Elliott . He's been in the top five enough this year to handle the pressure of racing for a win with so much on the line. Albert: Here's rating the likelihood fairly low for rampant 11th-hour movement along the Chase cut line, but forced to pick a best-chance ticket puncher, Ryan Newman deserves a look. Granted it's been more than a decade, but Newman has won at Richmond before. Plus, as if the postseason wasn't motivation enough, Wednesday's 15-point penalty for a Darlington infraction should leave the RCR No. 31 bunch with a point to prove Saturday night. How do you rate Chris Buescher 's chances for maintaining his top-30 position in the Sprint Cup points standings and meeting that requirement for Chase eligibility? Bruce : If Buescher goes to Richmond and focuses on running his own race, he'll be fine. If the team gets caught up in focusing on what others are doing, they'll wind up as the only team with a win that's not in the Chase. The key is for the folks on the No. 34 to not beat themselves. Albert: Front Row Motorsports has made an impression with their scrappy nature, and Buescher has provided the underdog No. 34 team with a shot at its first postseason appearance. Only complete catastrophe coupled with an improbable David Ragan top-10 would unravel those hopes. Provided FRM leans on its Roush Fenway Racing affiliation this weekend, Buescher should cruise into the field of 16. Will Sunday's Camping World Truck Series dust-up between Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek have a lasting impact into the Chase? Bruce : It's very likely that Cole Custer 's Chase hopes went up in smoke -- and grass and dirt, etc. -- in the last-lap incident with John Hunter Nemechek this past weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park . With Nemechek already qualified, the likelihood of a forgive-and-forget is slim. Custer's JR Motorsports team is solid enough to win -- or keep someone else from doing so if the situation presents itself. Albert: Nemechek's last-lap mugging at Mosport made such a dramatic impact that not only will Cole Custer race him differently going forward, others in the Camping World Truck Series garage may think twice about giving the youngster the benefit of the doubt on the track. The truck series has already established itself as a solid proving ground for young talent. Sunday's race offered a reminder that it's a launching pad for the NASCAR rivalries of the future, as well.
Voting for 2016 NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award Opens Sept. 4
RELATED: Cast your vote DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 3, 2016) -- Voting for the National Motorsports Press Association Sprint Most Popular Driver Award will officially open Sunday, Sept. 4. The award, sponsored by Sprint and administered by the NMPA, is the only major NASCAR award determined solely by fan vote. It has been presented annually since 1953. The 2016 voting period will open at 12 a.m. ET Sunday and close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 20. To vote for this year's award, fans can visit www.mostpopulardriver.com through either desktop or the NASCAR MOBILE app. Voting is limited to one vote per person per email address per day. Fans are encouraged to share their votes through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Eligible drivers for this year's award are those who have declared for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. NASCAR Hall of Fame member and 1988 series champion Bill Elliott holds the record for most MPD awards with 16; Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . has won the award for the past 13 seasons. Nineteen drivers have earned MPD honors on one or more occasions since its inception. "The launch of the NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award is one of the most anticipated events of the season for many fans," Kenny Bruce , president of the NMPA, said. "NASCAR fans are the most passionate you'll find in any sport and the NMPA considers it an honor to allow them to determine the sport's most popular driver. "We are pleased to present this year's program once again with series sponsor Sprint, whose help and guidance have been invaluable in bringing the Most Popular Driver program to fans." Sprint has been the presenting sponsor of the MPD Award since 2014. The winner of this year's award will be announced during the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards program on Friday, Dec. 2 in Las Vegas. NBCSN will air the post-season program beginning at 9 p.m. ET. MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR will carry the awards show live. A $10,000 donation will be made to the NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver's charity of choice on behalf of the NMPA. NMPA MOST POPULAR DRIVER AWARD Year – Recipient 2015 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2014 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2013 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2012 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2011 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2010 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2009 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2008 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2007 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2006 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2005 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2004 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2003 - Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2002 - Bill Elliott 2001 - Dale Earnhardt 2000 - Bill Elliott 1999 - Bill Elliott 1998 - Bill Elliott 1997 - Bill Elliott 1996 - Bill Elliott 1995 - Bill Elliott 1994 - Bill Elliott 1993 - Bill Elliott 1992 - Bill Elliott 1991 - Bill Elliott 1990 - Darrell Waltrip 1989 - Darrell Waltrip 1988 - Bill Elliott 1987 - Bill Elliott 1986 - Bill Elliott 1985 - Bill Elliott 1984 - Bill Elliott 1983 - Bobby Allison 1982 - Bobby Allison 1981 - Bobby Allison 1980 - David Pearson 1979 - David Pearson 1978 - Richard Petty 1977 - Richard Petty 1976 - Richard Petty 1975 - Richard Petty 1974 - Richard Petty 1973 - Bobby Allison 1972 - Bobby Allison 1971 - Bobby Allison 1970 - Richard Petty 1969 - Bobby Isaac 1968 - Richard Petty 1967 - Cale Yarborough 1966 - Darel Dieringer 1965 - Fred Lorenzen 1964 - Richard Petty 1963 - Fred Lorenzen 1962 - Richard Petty 1961 - Joe Weatherly 1960 - Rex White 1959 - Jack Smith 1958 - Glen Wood 1957 - Fireball Roberts 1956 - Curtis Turner 1955 - Tim Flock 1954 - Lee Petty 1953 - Lee Petty