Story from NASCAR.com
The two Most Popular Drivers were absolutely suited for NASCAR’s big awards.
Second-generation NASCAR mega-talents, both Chase Elliott (XFINITY Series) and John Hunter Nemechek (Camping World Truck Series) absolutely earned the distinction and the nod in Monday awards presentation.
Elliott, who will drive the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevy next year in the Sprint Cup Series — replacing the retiring Jeff Gordon — was typically low-key and humble about the whole NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series awards evening.
But he was eager to get going in his Cup career after a championship and second place finish (2015) in the XFINITY Series. Earning the Most Popular Driver Award for the recent season must have felt very appropriate for the son of Bill Elliott, who took the Cup Series vote a record 16 times. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won it the past 12 years.
“I think we have definitely a lot of work to do to catch Dale in that sense,” a smiling Elliott said. “But I’m very appreciative of the support I’ve had, especially the past two years and I’ve noticed it. I don’t think people realize how much that means to a driver when they see you wearing their T-shirt. It goes a long way for me. Seeing them do that means a lot.”
Elliott conceded he and his father, a NASCAR Hall of Famer, haven’t discussed this honor’s impact even though he is touched to receive it.
“We really haven’t talked about that,” Elliott said. “Fortunately he (his dad) had a big following and some of those people are following me. Can’t look past that. Dale has an obviously great following and I’m a Dale fan too.”
Nemechek, 18, was equally as excited to be recognized on the Camping World Truck Series side. A second-generation racer who won his first major race this season, Nemechek was obviously moved by the honor.
“It definitely can’t hurt to win the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, ” Nemechek said. “It’s definitely an honor for me and my family, but more importantly, hopefully it’ll help us gain some reputation on selling some sponsorship for the seasons tocome. Can’t thank all of the supporters enough that voted, and all the friends and family as well.”
Nemechek is the second family member to be honored with the award. His father, Joe Nemecheck — a former XFINITY Series champion and four-time Cup winner.
“Yeah, he won I think in 1992 and ’93, so it’s awesome to be able to win an award that he’s won,” Nemechek said. “I beat him to something.
“I wish he wouldn’t have won most popular so I could’ve beat him to that. We’re very competitive, but to get my first truck win when he didn’t was very special as well. He wants one bad.”
With Elliott moving into the Cup series and Nemechek hoping to continue his rise in the NASCAR ranks in 2016.
“It definitely is special to hear how good you’re doing with the equipment that you have,” Nemechek said. “We utilize our resources to the absolute max that we possibly can. We try and get our trucks as good as we can. There’s a lot of late nights and hard work put in with just a few people. Finding the funding to get a few more people and not have to work as late and getting some free time to work on some other projects could even make us better, but it was definitely a good year. Getting our first win and finishing in the top five so many times, all the hard work did pay off.
“We’re still working on trying to find funding. Nothing is set in stone yet. It’s all kind of up in the air right now, so still trying to find those possible partners to sit down, sign a deal with, hopefully for years to come.”