Earnhardt, Sadler and Briscoe named most popular drivers in NASCAR’s national series

John K Harrelson/Harrelson Photography Inc.

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

With the 10-week fan vote complete, NASCAR’s three National Media Press Association Most Popular Driver Award winners have been revealed.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Elliott Sadler and Chase Briscoe took home the awards for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series, respectively.

Below is a look at each driver that carried fan support into the offseason.

Cup Series

There was never any doubt.

For the 15th-consecutive season, and his final season of eligibility, the retiring Earmhardt was bestowed the title of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver.

The award extended Earnhardt’s record popularity streak to 15 years – a stretch that began back in 2003 after his father Dale Earnhardt Sr. earned a posthumous MPD award in 2001 and Bill Elliott claimed the award for a final time in 2002.

With Thursday’s win, the younger Earnhardt wrapped up his career one MPD award shy of matching Elliott’s record 16 wins from 1984-2002.

The former driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was honored during Thursday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards program at the Wynn Las Vegas. Earnhardt, 43, will hand his ride over to Alex Bowman in 2018, moving on to a new role in broadcasting with NBC Sports.

Other drivers in the top 10 in votes included Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Danica Patrick and 2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr.

XFINITY Series

For the third time in his XFINITY Series career, Sadler was voted by fans as the tour’s most popular driver.

Sadler, 42, also won the award in 2011 and 2016. The announcement of his win on Tuesday marked the third time a driver has won the XFINITY Series MPD Award three times, following Kenny Wallace (1991, ’94, 2006) and Brad Keselowski (2008-10).

The JR Motorsports veteran’s award win also continued a six-year win streak for drivers in the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned organization. Danica Patrick began the streak with her first full NASCAR season in 2012. Regan Smith followed to take the award in 2013, with Chase Elliott (2014-15) and Sadler (2016-17) combining to claim the designation in the past four years.

The award victory comes after Sadler’s close call with a championship. The Virginian made the Championship 4 for the second-consecutive year, but finished second in the championship standings after getting out-dueled by teammate William Byron over the season finale’s final run.

Sadler will be honored on Dec. 9 at NASCAR Champion’s Week in Charlotte.

Truck Series

Less than two weeks after scoring his first-career Truck Series win at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Briscoe learned Monday that he had earned another victory with the fans.

The Brad Keselowski Racing (BKR) rookie claimed his first MPD award in the Ford organization’s final year, completing a strong swan song that saw BKR place two drivers inside of the top six in points. The 22-year-old’s win also gave BKR it’s third MPD award in the last four years, following similar triumphs by Ryan Blaney (2014) and Tyler Reddick (2016) in recent seasons.

Briscoe’s late victory gave him a sixth-place finish in the Truck Series standings. The Indiana native also earned Sunoco Rookie of the Year Honors after beating out teammate and Championship 4 participant Austin Cindric, as well as fellow ARCA Racing Series champion Grant Enfinger.

Like Sadler, Briscoe will be honored during NASCAR Champion’s Week at Charlotte on Dec. 9.

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