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Friday, December 2, 2005
Junior most popular for third straight year

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. slipped this season in the points standings, but not in the popularity department.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt is NASCAR's most popular driver for the third straight year.

"This one probably means more to me than the others because of the kind of year we had," he said Friday.

Earnhardt failed to make the Chase for the championship and finished a miserable 19th in the Nextel Cup standings.

"It's one thing to have fan support when you're riding high and winning races," he said. "It's another thing to have it during the rough times.

"No matter what we went through this year, I never once felt like my fans were turning on me and the team."

The award is presented by Chex and the National Motorsports Press Association. Earnhardt received a record 1,403,544 votes. Jeff Gordon, who also missed the Chase, finished second with 594,434.

Kasey Kahne was third, Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart fourth and Rusty Wallace was fifth in his final year of racing.

The NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award began in 1956 as a simple poll of the drivers and later grew to incorporate all NASCAR competitors.

Bill Elliott won the title a record 16 years before finally asking to have his name removed from the ballot. Richard Petty won it nine times.