Dale Jr. voted 1st Quarter winner of Driver of the Year Award

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s strong start to the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship has earned him top honors for the First Quarter of the 2014 Driver of the Year award.

Earnhardt netted seven first-place votes and 88 points under the DOTY points system from a panel of American broadcasters and journalists.

Fellow Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick and Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader Will Power tied for second with 80 points, but Harvick had more first-place votes (five) than Power (three).

Nationwide Series star Chase Elliott – who drives for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports squad – earned one first-place vote and finished fourth with 37 points.

“I’m pretty blown away that we’ve won the First Quarter 2014 Driver of the Year Award,” Earnhardt said in a statement. “It’s an honor and really humbling to be chosen.

“The members that vote on this award are a credible group, and it’s an award that’s meant a lot to different drivers. It’s one that I’m proud to have been voted for.”

Junior could become the third winner’s son to claim the annual DOTY award. His father, seven-time Sprint Cup champ Dale Earnhardt Sr., claimed the annual DOTY in 1987 and 1994.

Other father-son DOTY winners include Al Unser Sr. (1970) and Al Unser Jr. (1990), as well as Mario Andretti (1967, 1978, 1984) and Michael Andretti (1991).

“Dale and his crew chief, Steve Letarte, are in the groove,” said DOTY president Barry Schmoyer. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see them at the Sprint Cup Championship table later this year.”

Outside of a DNF at Texas Motor Speedway, Earnhardt’s season so far has been solid.

He started his 2014 campaign with his second victory in the Daytona 500, which effectively locked him into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Additionally, he has claimed three runner-up finishes at Phoenix, Las Vegas and Darlington.

Brown: Dennis would have made same decision on McLaren-Honda split

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Zak Brown believes former McLaren team boss Ron Dennis would have made the same decision to cut ties with struggling Formula 1 engine partner Honda had he still been in charge at the team in 2017.

McLaren executive director Brown helped engineer a deal for the team to split with Honda at the end of the 2017 season after three tough seasons that had seen the Japanese manufacturer offer little in the way of performance or reliability.

The decision split opinion, with McLaren spurning a significant annual financial injection from Honda in order to link up with Renault, believing its on-track fortunes had to be prioritized over its commercial interests.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Brown was asked if he believed Dennis – McLaren’s long-running team chief before stepping down at the end of 2016 – would have made the same decision to cut ties with Honda.

“I think he would have,” Brown said.

“He was here when those conversations were ongoing and I think Ron always has and always will have the best interests of McLaren in his heart.

“He is Mr. McLaren. It burns him inside as much as us not to see us winning races.”

Brown also elaborated on the decision to break off the much-lauded relationship with Honda, saying the first signs of trouble with the 2017 power unit were clear in pre-season.

After a number of attempts to try and rectify the situation, Brown and his fellow team bosses felt there was no alternative but to end the Honda deal for 2018.

“We knew we were in trouble in testing in Barcelona and we worked really hard for six months to try and find solutions that would give us confidence that we’d be much more competitive in 2018,” Brown said.

“Ultimately, after trying many different things and many different ways we felt we couldn’t get there.

“Three years is a long time in Formula 1 and so we needed to change the direction to get our team back at the top.”