Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke a tie with Bill Elliott by earning his 11th consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver award during today’s NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon in Las Vegas.
Earnhardt, who finished fifth in the 2013 Sprint Cup Series championship, has won the award every year since the 2003 season. The award is voted on by fans, and the National Motorsports Press Association later disclosed that Earnhardt received more than 700,000 votes out of the 1,ooo,000+ votes cast at MostPopularDriver.com.
“It humbles me deeply to know that you have so many fans in your corner each race weekend,” he said upon receiving the award. “There are a lot of motivating factors in life that drive our race team to be the best we can.
“But none impact us more than the support of our race fans that they’ve shown over the years. We thank you for your devotion to NASCAR and we look forward to giving you a lot to be excited about in 2014.”
Earnhardt also used his brief time on the podium to hail his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet pit crew, which earned Most Valuable Pit Crew of the Year honors earlier in the luncheon.
“That was really cool to see those guys get that [award],” said Earnhardt of his team, who according to NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello had an average stop time of 12.4 seconds despite having to use multiple rear tire changers over the year.
“They were awesome all season and I’m looking forward to next year.”
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.