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Dale Jr . wins NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award
MORE: Junior through the years " Relive all of Dale Jr .'s win s DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Although he missed one half of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season due to injury, race fans still overwhelmingly selected Dale Earnhardt Jr . as the National Motorsports Press Association Sprint Most Popular Driver. Earnhardt's selection was announced Friday during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards program at the Wynn Las Vegas. A $10,000 donation to the charity of his choice will be made on behalf of the NMPA. It is the 14th consecutive season Earnhardt has been voted the series' MPD. The award is the only major NASCAR honor to be determined solely by fan vote. Only one other driver, Bill Elliott , has won the award more often. Elliott was named the series' most popular driver 16 times between 1984 and 2002. Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports , was sidelined at midseason after suffering concussion-like symptoms following on-track incidents at Michigan International Speedway and Daytona International Speedway . He is expected to return to competition for 2017. RELATED: Junior injury timeline "The Most Popular Driver Award is always very humbling to receive, even more so this year with my injury and time out of the car," Earnhardt Jr . said. "The fans continue to amaze me with their loyalty and the support they've shown throughout my career no matter the circumstance. "I try not to think about winning or losing the Most Popular Driver award; it's a bit of a gift, you know. Whether we win the award or not, we get a lot of great support from our fans all season long. I certainly got some extra support this year through the injury and all that stuff; it's unfortunate to be in that position but the fans were great. That was an incredible motivator for me during my recovery to get healthy. Not a lot of people that go through those types of support groups, but the fans really made a world of difference. "I was pretty open and transparent in sharing the process and they were certainly open and honest replying and wishing us well. It made the bad days better and once I started feeling good about coming back it gave me a lot of motivation, maybe a reminder I guess of why I want to be back in the car. You race to have fun and win races, but it wouldn't even be worth making the trip if the fans didn't show up. They're a huge reason why we want to get back in the car and be back at the track next year." Junior also tweeted a message to his fans after receiving the award. Thank you fans! You guys are such a huge part of our team and help motivate us in so many ways. pic.twitter.com/hvEek8hkux — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) December 3, 2016 Sprint has been the presenting sponsor of the Most Popular Driver Award program since 2014. Forty drivers received one or more votes from fans during this year's 12-week voting period. Aside from Earnhardt Jr ., others finishing in the top 10 in vote totals were (in alphabetical order): Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards , Chase Elliott , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Matt Kenseth , Danica Patrick , Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr . The Most Popular Driver Award has been presented annually since 1953 and the recipient was originally determined by a poll of competitors. It became a fan-driven program in 1984 under the guidance of the NMPA. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Jr . confirms wedding date, gives health update
LAS VEGAS -- Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s offseason plans include a test to confirm the Hendrick Motorsports driver is fit and ready to return to competition. Wedding bells will be a part of the brief break as well. The sport's most popular driver confirmed Friday night that he and fiancée Amy Reimann will be married on New Year's Eve. MORE: Junior wins 2016's Sprint Most Popular Driver Award "It's only a few weeks away," Earnhardt said after accepting his 14th-consecutive National Motorsports Press Association Sprint Most Popular Driver award during ceremonies at the Wynn Las Vegas. "Amy spilled the beans tonight that we're getting married on New Year's Eve. I'm really excited and have enjoyed going through the process. I've never been married before and I'm excited to be marrying Amy." Earnhardt, 42, and Reimann became engaged last year during a trip to Germany. He said he is looking forward to being involved in all the planning for the upcoming event. "I told her that when we were starting to plan that I wanted to be at every function and (a part of) every decision; I want to be involved in all the planning because I don't want to get married and then go 'yeah man, picking the flowers or whatever, what was that like? What did I miss?' I don't want to miss anything," he said. "I'm so excited, so thrilled to be a part of it and I look forward to our future." The winner of 26 NASCAR premier series races, including a pair of Daytona 500 titles, Earnhardt was sidelined for the final 18 races of the 2016 season after suffering concussion-like symptoms following crashes in two races this past summer. He has worked diligently with doctors to return to competition, and is expected to be cleared to compete when the 2017 season gets underway in February at Daytona. MORE: Relive all of Junior's wins " Dale Jr . on offseason: We're going testing "I'll be happy to tell you guys what we've got planned when the time is right," he said of an effort to test before returning to competition. "We do have a good plan and NASCAR has been very easy to work with. They made a new rule for situations for drivers like this to allow a driver to get back on the track in a bit of an open test without any data acquisition or anything like that on the car. We'll get out there and spend half a day somewhere running some long runs and getting a good idea of whether I'm ready to go. "I feel 100 percent; I don't think we're going to have any issues. If all that goes as planned, we'll go to the Phoenix test which is a NASCAR test in January and will be plugged back in to work just right where we were when we started last year." Earnhardt is the son of seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt. In addition to competing for Hendrick Motorsports in NASCAR's premier series, he co-owns JR Motorsports, an XFINITY Series organization which will field four full-time teams in that series in 2017. JRM also fielded an entry in the Camping World Truck Series in 2016 for driver Cole Custer . &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Earnhardt Jr . wins 2016 Most Popular driver award
Dale Earnhardt Jr . earns his 14th straight NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award despite missing half the season due to injury.
Dale Jr .'s 2017 No. 88 Nationwide scheme unveiled
Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet for the 2017 season in NASCAR's premier series was revealed on Tuesday via Nationwide 88's Facebook page. BREAKING NEWS: Check out @DaleJr 's 2017 @Nationwide paint scheme. #NW88JR pic.twitter.com/gB5c3v8Z9q — Nationwide 88 (@nationwide88) November 29, 2016 Earnhardt tweeted out a preview of his car's new paint job a day prior to the unveil. 2017 @nationwide88 production today and tomorrow. Unveiling new car Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/AUAeK4LA2R — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) November 28, 2016 The company has been a primary partner with Hendrick Motorsports since 2014 and was featured as a primary sponsor on the No. 88 ride for 21 races in 2016. Here is a look at the 2016 scheme on track. Earnhardt, who was sidelined for 18 races in 2016 due to a concussion, is expected to return to make his first start since July in the 2017 season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 26. Both the driver as well as team owner Rick Hendrick have expressed their confidence that Earnhardt will be cleared for the start of the season. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Tony Stewart and Dale Jr . reminisce on past
Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr . joined SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to talk about some of their best memories on the track together and what they will remember most about racing alongside each other.
Meet Tim Fedewa, Kevin Harvick's spotter
RELATED: Meet Denny Hamlin's spotter, Chris Lambert Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of interviews with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spotters. Tim Fedewa, Spotter for Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet How did you get started spotting in NASCAR? I was running a Busch car, kind of at the back end of my career, so I knew I needed to figure out something to keep food on the table. It just came about that Bill Elliott needed some help on Sundays. Kristine Curley (PR) was working for Evernham at the time, we were friends. That's kind of how I got going. Just kind of did it part time for different teams. Like I said, I knew my driving career was going down so I knew I better do something and that evolved into a job spotting. Do you have any other duties with the team? Not really. I help out and do what I can but in today's world there are a lot of people that just have their specialty. I spot for Stewart-Haas but at the track on the weekends I also will do an XFINITY , Truck, ARCA, K&N race. Whatever is on the track, I'm spotting for that as well. I work with JR Motorsports, the 88 car for (Alex) Bowman when he drives it; sometimes for Josh Berry . But when the other Sprint Cup drivers get in it, they have their spotters. And that makes sense. I'll spot for Spencer Gallagher in the Truck Series, Noah Gragson in the K&N Series, Chad Finley in ARCA. We do whatever is here. That's how we make our living. The more races the better, actually. How long have you been spotting for Kevin? Since he started with the 4 car in 2014, so this is my third year. I was with (Marcos) Ambrose before at Richard Petty Motorsports . When they started this deal at SHR, I came over. You mentioned working with Bill Elliott earlier, was that the first time as a spotter? I might have done a little bit before then but I don't think I did a whole lot because I was still driving. I might have helped a few guys up on the roof a couple of times. But I was kind of thrown into it in Sprint Cup . It couldn't have worked out better for me because Bill, he didn’t need a spotter. He was so seasoned and good that I was just up there making noise in his ear, probably. But for me it was a good experience that I had a guy like him. If I had a rookie that really needed my assistance at the time I probably wouldn't have been much help. But for me it worked out well because Bill … he was awesome. What's been the most bizarre thing you've witnessed from the spotters' stand? Probably the (Juan Pablo) Montoya deal (at Daytona). That was … with it being a night race and flaming up like that, it was pretty surreal. What's been your most memorable experience as a spotter? Miami when we won the race and won the championship. There was a lot of stress that day for everybody. The Chase brings a lot of stress, each race you move on and advance the stress level for the team advances, as well. I just remember thinking that day, "Everybody has to do their own thing and do it right." To have Kevin win the race and the championship, it was (great). What's one thing fans might not realize about your job duties? I guess being away from your family. For anybody in racing, that's the hardest part. You have different struggles from day to day in your job but as far as being on the roof and working the races, restarts are tough. You can't predict what's going to happen. You try to predict it in your head and you get in trouble. So I just go into every restart with an open mind. You think you know the tendencies of the other drivers but that's where you get in trouble. You think, "OK, this guy doesn't like going to the bottom (of the track); guys like Kyle (Busch) or Kurt (Busch), if they can get to the top and go, they're going to go." But you think that and it's in your head but if that doesn't happen, you stumble on your words … I just kind of try to go in there and tell 'em what's happening. Just give them the best picture you can. Which driver would make a good spotter and why? I can tell you that Kevin has owned his own team; he's watched it from above and he is just really smart. I always tell everybody that if I had had somebody like Kevin helping me when I drove, I'd probably still be driving or would have had a longer career anyway because he's so smart. Not only as a driver. Usually when I tell him something, he already knows it. He's already got it figured out. I'm Captain Obvious, that's what I call myself. Between him and Bill, as far as knowing everything about not just driving but who has what tires, what strategy they're thinking, he's already thinking ahead and got that figured out. Do you have a favorite track? I like Bristol. Because everything happens so quick, you're talking all the time. It is what it is. Clear is clear and you can't take it back. If you get them in a hole you better hope that it's there. We stand down in Turn 1 and I can see the whole track. I don't have to move my head back and forth like I would if I'm at the start/finish line, so I've got a good view of it. You can still get in trouble there and I have as a spotter – a couple of years ago we were coming off (Turn) 4 and there was a wreck in 1 and by the time you see it and say it, we still got in it. It's a tough race track when wrecks happen. But as far as when you’re running good and passing cars, it's a blast. Superspeedway racing is fun, it's different. You're talking a lot, always trying to figure out the best input to give your driver. It's a challenge, there's a lot going on. What is one thing the average fan might not realize about your job? Probably just how serious we take it. It's stressful for sure. Yeah, we're here racing but we put our heart and souls into it. It's like I'm driving the car every weekend. I take it that serious. Nowadays, spotters are thought of as a competitive advantage – what can we do for the team to make it better? In all reality, we're there to keep Kevin or whoever safe. That's the bottom line so that's the stressful part. That's why we’re up there, to keep everybody safe. So whatever we do to get a competitive advantage, keeping your driver, and the other drivers, safe is still the priority.
Top moments from NASCAR After the Lap 2016
RELATED: Best quotes from After the Lap " Watch the whole show THE FIRE ALARM IN THE THEATER GOING OFF MULTIPLE TIMES This was caused by the pyrotechnics. Or perhaps Martin Truex Jr .’s flaming Homestead piece was in the vicinity without us knowing. I like to tell myself it’s because my tweets were hot. THE COMMUNITY BOTTLE OF TEQUILA Guy Fieri produced a bottle of the fine tequila, which made the rounds, with Tony Stewart taking a remarkably prolonged swig. We will check tomorrow to see which drivers have entered into a technical alliance with Goody's and the toilet. RUTLEDGE WOOD WITH THE HEAT After the tequila, Tony Stewart says, "Man I don't know if we'll pass inspection now." Rutledge responds with "Oh don't worry -- Chad Knaus is here. He'll get you through." SETTING THE TONE. KEELAN HARVICK’S PRECOCIOUS CONCERN ABOUT KYLE LARSON Kyle Larson 's rim-riding driving style has apparently piqued the interest of Kevin Harvick 's son, who Kevin said asked him "Daddy, why does Kyle Larson hit the wall so much?" AUSTIN DILLON WITH THE VERBAL FLAMETHROWER MORE: Dillon brings the fire to Harvick After Kevin Harvick dodges a question, Austin Dillon interjects with "Hey, don't cut him a break. He didn't cut me one in Texas." OH SNAP, I THINK THE FIRE ALARM JUST WENT OFF AGAIN 'CUZ SOMEONE GOT BURNED BEYOND RECOGNITION. TONY STEWART PROVING HE'S THE BEST SHOW IN LAS VEGAS, ASIDE FROM PERHAPS OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN, WHO IS JUST EXQUISITE Tony Stewart clearly left his "give a damn" in Homestead, as he came armed with a stockpile of one-liners. For example, after being handed the community tequila once again, he said "This is peer pressure, kids. You'll learn about this when you grow up, Kyle Larson ." BRAD'S HOOP DREAMS Rutledge and Guy exhumed the incriminating footage of Brad Keselowski "playing basketball." Austin Dillon added "Come on, don't show that. We're supposed to be athletes." TONY STEWART DRAWS THE LINE IN THE SAND BETWEEN HIMSELF AND JEFF GORDON … ACTUALLY, CONSIDERING HIS INJURY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON, PERHAPS THAT'S AN INSENSITIVE ANALOGY "I am not gonna be Jeff Gordon . He helped bail out Dale Jr ., but tell you what, if any of you get hurt, you are on your own." MATT KENSETH BEING SO QUIET THAT YOU WANT TO CLIMB ONSTAGE AND HOLD A MIRROR TO HIS NOSE TO MAKE SURE THERE'S CONDENSATION IMPLYING HE'S BREATHING It's become an annual After The Lap tradition. Save money next year and bring just 15 microphones. A SURPRISE APPEARANCE BY THE LEGEND AJ FOYT MORE: Foyt surprises 'Smoke' Tony's friend and mentor Super Tex made a surprise appearance, and earned a rousing standing ovation. Tony and Foyt shared barbs back and forth, which is something I could personally sit and listen to for hours on end. MAN, I wish someone would have handed AJ the tequila.
Round of 12 drivers look back on great season
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Round of 12 drivers, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr , Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott reflect on their season.
Rick Hendrick: Dale Jr . 'on track' for Daytona 500
MORE: Buy tickets for Homestead-Miami Championship Weekend HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Team owner Rick Hendrick shed light Friday on Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s timetable to return to NASCAR competition, saying he anticipated his driver to be on pace to compete in time for the 2017 Daytona 500 . Earnhardt Jr ., 42, has been sidelined from the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet since July after two severe crashes left him with concussion-like symptoms. He was ruled out for the remainder of the Sprint Cup season in September. "I think sometime in December the doctor's going to give him the final clearance and then we'll get him in a car," Hendrick said Friday after a news conference with the Sprint Cup Championship 4 car owners at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "He feels great. Everything's on track. I mean, every step that we supposedly need to go through, we've gone through, and I don't see anything holding us back." Earnhardt, who has been working on rehabilitation of his neurological conditions since this summer, reiterated that intention last month at Martinsville Speedway , saying in a pre-race interview that "we're booking things as normal" ahead of the 2017 season. That included sponsorship plans, photo shoots and other logistical agreements in preparation for next year. But Earnhardt Jr . also indicated he was eager to return to NASCAR's premier series, something Hendrick reaffirmed Friday. "He sent me a text the other day that he was excited and waiting for Daytona," Hendrick said. "I think we've just got a couple more hurdles to clear." Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman have split time in Earnhardt's No. 88 this season, with Gordon filling in for eight races and Bowman set to make his 10th start of the year in Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Gordon has indicated that he's likely to resume his retirement from racing next season unless called upon by Hendrick. As for Bowman, the 23-year-old racer who competes part-time in the XFINITY Series has said he's still uncertain what his driving responsibilities -- beyond simulator work for Hendrick's team -- will be in 2017. Friday, Hendrick was uncertain as well. "Alex is a good guy. He's helped us in a lot of ways," Hendrick said. "We're just kind of taking that one a day at a time. He's done testing for us, he's done simulation for us and he's really done a good job. We're just kind of taking it a day at a time. We don't really have any certain plan." &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Wallace Jr ., Gaughan, Reed, Koch miss Championship 4
RELATED: Full race results " Updated Chase Grid AVONDALE, Ariz. -- A tearful Darrell Wallace Jr . left the infield care center at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday night, disappointed after a crash took him out of Chase contention and distraught over the loss of a cherished grandmother only days earlier. The Roush Fenway Racing NASCAR XFINITY Series driver had honored his grandmother by placing "Granny Jan" above the door of his No. 6 Ford. One of eight drivers vying for a berth in next week's Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and seventh in points, Wallace needed a victory to secure a spot in the final. He was running inside the top 10 when contact from fellow Chase driver Blake Koch on Lap 149 of the 200-lap event sent his car hard into the wall, erasing any hopes of a victory. "My grandmother was giving me the ride of my life," an emotional Wallace said after exiting the care center. "That was the most fun I've had all year. Just circumstances took us out. ... We will go to Homestead and let her ride again." Wallace, teammate Ryan Reed , Koch (Kaulig Racing) and Brendan Gaughan ( Richard Childress Racing ) failed to transfer into the final round. Daniel Suarez and teammate Erik Jones ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) will make up half the field batting for the title as will JR Motorsports drivers Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier .