LAS VEGAS – Dale Earnhardt Jr. extended his run as NASCAR's most popular driver with his 12th consecutive win.
Earnhardt was presented with the NASCAR Sprint NMPA Most Popular Driver Award at Friday night's season-ending awards ceremony. Earnhardt last year broke a tie with 16-time winner Bill Elliott for most consecutive years as winner.
He thanked his fan base, known as JR Nation, and said joining Twitter this year made him more aware of how determined his fans are to help him win the award. He said he'd wake up each day and check his Twitter timeline to see "it is just full of these fans, 'I voted,' 'I voted,' " Earnhardt said. "That was probably the most humbling experience. I got to know my fans in a whole new way this year."
Completing the top 10 in total votes for this year's award were (listed alphabetically): Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and Josh Wise.
Keselowski feigned shock over Earnhardt's win while Earnhardt accepted the trophy.
"Darn, Really thought I had it this year!" he posted on Twitter.
Only 17 drivers have won the most popular driver award since its inception in 1956. Elliott removed his name from consideration following his 16th victory in 2002.
Earnhardt's streak began the next season.
His fan base this year was able to celebrate a banner season in which he opened the year with a victory in the Daytona 500. Earnhardt won four races and finished eighth in the final point standings.
He was also honored Thursday with the prestigious Myers Brothers award, which recognizes the winner for their contributions to the sport.
After accepting the award Friday, Earnhardt revealed he gave his speech for the first time without prepared remarks. He said he didn't like how he sounded last year in accepting most popular driver — "it didn't seem genuine to me," he said — so he went off the cuff on the stage this time.
"I hope my remarks came across well because I genuinely do appreciate all the effort from the fans," Earnhardt said. "It really is overwhelming to be able to continue to win this award. This was a good year because of all the victories we were able to deliver on the race track. The other years, it was difficult to accept the award because of our performance.
"I feel like I have a good idea in other forms of sport or celebrity, and our fans are truly the most loyal, most devoted, most vocal."