For the sixth consecutive season, Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott was selected as the National Motorsports Press Association “Most Popular Driver” in an online vote by the sport’s fans – the longest such winning mark by an active NASCAR Cup Series driver and a nod to the Elliott family’s rich tradition in the sport. Elliott’s father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, won the honor a record 16 times in his championship career.
The 28-year old Elliott arrived at Thursday’s night’s NASCAR Awards Ceremony in downtown Nashville to accept his award wearing a sling on his right arm – a result of recent offseason shoulder surgery. The nod to Elliott’s huge popularity comes even in a season when the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion missed five races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident and another as a result of NASCAR discipline.
Even with his impressive streak of winning the award, Elliott insists he never assumes he will be bestowed with the honor. He finished 17th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings – tops among the non-Playoff drivers – despite missing those six events and he finished with seven top-five and 15 top-10 finishes.
“There’s always a chance for anything and also too, I think [NASCAR Cup Champion] Ryan [Blaney] has a great following as well and obviously him having a great year I thought he’d have a shot and also Kevin [Harvick] finishing up his career, a great career,” Elliott said. “Obviously, I know our fans pretty well and they are loyal folks. But I don’t ever take it for granted. I think it’s an easy thing to look at and think that I would, but I’m always grateful for the honor and to have the support we’ve had.
“This has always been, to me, an extension to me of my family’s place in the sport and the success it’s had over the years and the fans have been great to all of us, not just myself but to my entire family.”
Of his shoulder injury, Elliott said surgery two weeks ago went well and he didn’t expect to miss any competitive time in the 2024 season. He didn’t believe the injury was directly NASCAR or even racing related, instead saying it was a result of longstanding wear and tear dating back to his high school days.
“I missed a bunch of races and had two surgeries in a calendar year which was not how I anticipated my 2023, but that’s life and I think you learn through those situations and sometimes you have to step back and realize there’s more things to it than going in circles and sometimes you have to put your health first and make the right decisions on long-term health and that was really where my head space was in doing my shoulder when I did it,” Elliott said.
Of winning the award again even in a season he did not compete in every race, Elliott reminded that he never takes it for granted and sees it as a genuine continuation of his family’s long legacy in the sport.
“I certainly respect the honor and don’t take it lightly, but I understand my spot in line of my family’s heritage in racing and I feel like it’s always been an extension of their presence here in NASCAR and the success they had and the many years they spent traveling around doing this stuff,” Elliott said. “And for me, I’m just fortunate to have the opportunity to do this for a living and try to carry it forward as much I can,”
JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier was voted Most Popular Driver in the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series and for the third consecutive season, ThorSport Racing’s Hailie Deegan won the award for the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series.