Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished his last season as a full-time driver in NASCAR, and he’s been the most popular driver in the sport for the last 15 years.
His absence will allow a new driver to take over as the most popular in NASCAR, and Earnhardt was asked who he thought would win the award next year.
Earnhardt said there will be several drivers competing for that spot, especially with the impressive wave of young drivers who are sweeping through NASCAR.
“I don’t know, I think you might be surprised,” Earnhardt said via Motorsport. “It’s going to be close. I think it’s going to be a close battle. When I think about that, I think that the drivers that have the opportunity to win it also have the opportunity over the next 12 months before they get here to double and triple and quadruple their fan base with the engagement they can create and capitalize on throughout the season.”
However, Earnhardt did offer one name he believes could take over as the most popular driver in NASCAR in the near future.
“Chase (Elliott) obviously has a great personality,” Earnhardt said. “He has a great family history much like I did. That’s something he has going for him but he has a lot of guys that are doing a lot of great things on social media and interacting with the fans and engaging with the fans in a lot of different ways that is going to make this an interesting vote next year.”
Elliott is likely the safe bet, especially after seeing how fans rushed to take his side during his feud with Denny Hamlin.
Kyle Larson could be in the mix given his success last season, but Elliott is the more likely choice.
Elliott’s father, Bill, won the Most Popular Driver award 16 times during his career, which is the most of any driver in NASCAR history. At 22, Chase Elliott could be looking at more than a handful of awards for being NASCAR’s fan favorite.