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Chase Elliott Crowned NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for 6th Time in a Row
Not even Ryan Blaney winning his first Cup Series title could dethrone the Hendrick Motorsports superstar and clear fan favorite.
Chase Elliott would be the first to admit that the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season churned out a cycle of disappointment for him. There was the snowboarding injury he suffered in Colorado. And his silly retaliatory hooking suspension against Denny Hamlin. And the fact that those two incidents sidelined him for seven cumulative races. And most of all, the 28-year-old’s winless season saw him fail to clinch a berth in the postseason for the first time in his short but storied career.
But Elliott’s year out in the cold is starting to defrost after a recent moment in the sun.
The Chevrolet wheelman collected his sixth consecutive Most Popular Driver award Thursday night during the NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The prestigious fan-voted accolade was presented by Hooters and the National Motorsports Press Association.
What did Chase Elliott say after receiving NASCAR's Most Popular Driver award for the sixth time in a row?
“Really, this award, in my eyes, has been a reflection and extension of my family’s place in the sport,” Elliot said on stage after winning the award. “I recognize my spot in line and recognize what they’ve done. The reason it is special is because of the fans and how supportive they have been to my entire family, myself included, over the years, and I am so grateful for what they do for us. They’ve been phenomenal.”
Elliott racked up 104,534 votes, followed by third-generation racer and 2023 Cup champion Ryan Blaney in second. Elliott’s partner in crime at Hendrick Motorsports Kyle Larson rounded out the top three most popular drivers.
Who has won the most NASCAR's Most Popular Driver awards?
NASCAR Cup Series popularity and the Elliott family have been inextricably linked throughout the course of modern stock car racing history. As one of the longest-running awards in the sport since it was first distributed in 1953, according to the NASCAR-focused Jayski's Silly Season Site, between Elliott and his father Bill Elliott, the family has won the honor 22 times, with the elder Elliott accounting for 16 — the most ever by a Cup Series driver, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s 15. In fact, over the span of the last 33 years, only an Elliott or an Earnhardt has won the NASCAR Most Popular Driver award.
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Featured in Elliott’s suited ensemble at the event was the unmistakable black arm sling he wears since his recent shoulder surgery. According to FOX Sports, the procedure originates from a nagging injury dating back to high school sports.
"It was really pretty last minute," Elliott said. "It wasn't really something I had planned for a long time. I knew I needed to get the ball rolling to get some answers. ... I wanted to get it looked at, and when I got it looked at, they felt like surgery was the best option, so I listened to the doctors from there."
It's yet another obstacle for No. 9 to overcome, but one he says he can manage.
“Any time you have surgery, and you go through the process, like any little setback or whatever can slow the process down, but thus far, everything has gone really well,” Elliott said, according to NBC Sports.
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“The way I see things today, I don’t think there’s anything that would make me think that next year will be compromised at the beginning of the season, including the Clash (on Februar 4),” he added. “My goal is to be rehabbed and feeling good and ready to go for the Clash and ultimately — and more importantly — Daytona when that time rolls around. ... I feel good right now.”
With his plans to gear up for next season, the last thing Elliott wants is to dwell on his past year’s failures — or his ending spot of 17th place in the Cup standings — but the not-so-good times give the Dawsonville, Georgia native moments of reflection he’s using to motor to future success.
“Last year was rough in a lot of ways, but that’s life, you learn to continue to grow and reinvent yourself in new ways,” Elliott said, according to the AP. “As I’ve continued down this journey, you start to experience things you’ve never experienced before, and this year was one of them for me. I look at next year as an opportunity to grow and be a better driver, be a better person and come out really strong at Daytona when we start our season.”
“This last year was one I’d like to forget."