Friday, December 3, 2010
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won zero races since June 2008 and on Thursday he won his eighth consecutive Most Popular Driver Award, which was presented in Las Vegas, Nev. The award was decided by Internet fan votes and was sponsored by Hamburger Helper. Fans had the option to log on the site and vote for their favorite driver every day from February through Nov. 22, 2010.
Earnhardt Jr.'s streak ties him with Bill Elliott, who was the only other driver to win eight or more straight years. Elliott holds the record with 16 wins; at that point, he removed himself from the voting.
"It was pretty cool to hear that I was eight in a row just like Bill (Elliott)," Earnhardt said to the press after he received his award. "I've enjoyed winning it – my fan base has stayed strong. It's become an important honor each year for me. I'm glad that fans still feel their support for me. I appreciate their dedication and loyalty."
To see a video of Earnhardt Jr.'s acceptance speech, click here
More than 1.5 million votes were cast this year; that includes repetitive votes from fans on a daily basis.
Junior Nation is filled with some of the most loyal fans in sports, next to Red Sox Nation. In Earnhardt Jr.'s case, it's on par with how he feels about the Washington Redskins. He mentioned to reporters Thursday that he can relate to his fans because he knows that no matter what happens to his favorite sports teams, he's there for them every year.
The award does prove that for fans, it’s not about the wins in the sport; it’s more about who the person (or the team) is. Earnhardt Jr. has shown his gratitude to his fans in many ways, including (but not limited to) hosting his fan club for free, and his own website, DaleJr.com, is still a free site. I took the time to get to know some of his fans online and the most common answer to why they love him so is his loyalty to the sport, his fans and his family.
He left a personal message to fans here on his website, DaleJr.com.
Earnhardt Jr. decided not to actively participate in social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook. At the beginning of the year, he mentioned he used to do it along with MySpace, but he personally grew tired of it. He still makes himself available to fans through the online racing site iRacing.com, as well as a few other "game" sites, including fantasy football.
He opened up a bar called Whisky River in Charlotte, N.C.; DEJ Realty, where they offer first-time buyer services; and a production house, Hammerhead Entertainment, which produces television projects and videos about his life in racing. He also has a charitable foundation, the Dale Jr. Foundation, where fans can also be active.
On his website, there’s a chat room and a blog area where some of the same fans leave messages to him and fellow fans; some have developed friendships.