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Thursday, December 2, 2010
Dale Earnhardt Jr. most popular driver

By David Newton
ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- Despite struggles on the track, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won NASCAR's most popular driver award for the eighth straight year.

Earnhardt
Earnhardt

The award was presented to the Hendrick Motorsports driver during Thursday's National Motorsports Press Association Myers Brothers luncheon at the Bellagio.

Earnhardt is closing in on the record 10 straight most popular driver awards won by Bill Elliott from 1991 to 2000. Elliott is the all-time winner of the award with 16, followed by Richard Petty with 10, Earnhardt with eight and Bobby Allison with seven.

Earnhardt won despite finishing 21st in points and missing the Chase for the second straight year and third time in four seasons. He is in the midst of a 93-race losing streak dating back to Michigan in 2008.

Team owner Rick Hendrick announced last week that he was moving Earnhardt into the same shop with five-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and pairing him with Jeff Gordon crew chief Steve Letarte.

Gordon will now share a shop with Mark Martin and have Alan Gustafson as his crew chief.

Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, said it's "hard to say how it's going to affect us."

He also said change is good and he's "definitely looking forward to having Dale as a part of the 48-88 shop."

"It's definitely got some potential," Knaus said.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.