Voting opens for NASCAR’s most popular driver; will Dale Jr. make it 12 years in a row?

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Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. be the fan’s choice as NASCAR’s most popular driver for the 12th consecutive year?

Or might Danica Patrick, newcomer Kyle Larson, six-time (potentially soon-to-be seven time?) Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson or some other driver earn the honor of being the biggest fan favorite in racing in 2014?

We’ll find out in four months as voting began Saturday and will conclude Nov. 17 for the Sprint National Motorsports Press Association’s Most Popular Driver Award.

Now in its 62nd year of existence, the MPDA is one of the most noteworthy and popular awards because it allows racing fans a direct pipeline to show their support and loyalty to their favorite driver.

New for this season is sponsorship of the award by Sprint, which also is the sole sponsor of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.

For more information and to cast your vote, visit www.MostPopularDriver.com.

Here’s the fine print: Fans are allowed to cast one ballot per email address per day. Fans can also cast up to two additional votes per person per email address on social media sites Facebook or Twitter.

Eligibility is open to drivers who have declared for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship and have entered all points-paying NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events contested between Jan. 1, 2014 and July 5, 2014.

The MPDA winner will be announced during NASCAR’s Champion’s Week at the annual Myers Brothers Luncheon in Las Vegas.

“We sincerely appreciate the interest expressed by so many fans surrounding the Most Popular Driver program,” NMPA president Kenny Bruce said in a press release. “Their continued participation, passion and loyalty are the reason for the program’s amazing success and longevity.”

More than one million votes were cast in last year’s contest. Bill Elliott holds the record by being chosen MPD 16 times.

Remember, to vote, visit www.MostPopularDriver.com.

As they say in Chicago, vote early and vote often.

* Disclosure: Jerry Bonkowski is a member of the board of directors of the National Motorsports Press Association.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”