Death, taxes, Chase Elliott winning the NASCAR Cup Series Most Popular Driver Award.
After a fan vote conducted during the later stages of the season, the new premier series champion was announced as the winner of the 2020 award on Wednesday, his third straight year of receiving the honour. Justin Allgaier won the Xfinity Series‘ award and Zane Smith claimed the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series‘, securing a Chevrolet sweep of the national series MPDs.
In his fifth full-time season of full-time Cup racing, Elliott enjoyed a massively successful year with a career-high five wins. The fifth win came at the perfect time as he won the season finale at Phoenix to secure his maiden Cup championship.
“That award is really about you all (the fans) and your support for me and my team and the things we do at track and traveling the country,” Elliott said in a video shared on social media. “As always, just thank you. Grateful for the best fans I could ever ask for over the course of my entire career, not just the Cup side. You guys show out every week when you can at the track and on the Internet and all of the above.”
Elliott is the first driver to win the Cup title and Most Popular Driver in the same year since his father Bill in 1988. The Elliott family has practically held a monopoly on the award, with Bill winning it a record sixteen times during his career while Chase has three. The latter was also the Xfinity Most Popular Driver in 2014 and 2015, making it twenty-one total MPDs for the Elliotts.
Allgaier won the Xfinity award for the second straight year. In 2020, his fifth season with JR Motorsports, he scored three wins en route to a second consecutive appearance in the Championship Round (and fourth overall), where he finished runner-up to Austin Cindric. The win continues a trend of JRM drivers winning the award dating back to 2012 with Elliott (twice), Danica Patrick, Regan Smith, and Elliott Sadler (thrice) also claiming the honour.
On Twitter, Allgaier posted, “Such an incredible honor! To win this award again is truly humbling and I can’t say thank you enough to everyone that supports us and all who VOTED! I saw everyone’s posts on social media but didn’t want to jinx anything. Thank you from the bottom of my family and I’d hearts!”
Smith was one position shy of winning the Truck championship as a rookie, finishing second behind GMS Racing team-mate Sheldon Creed in the final race. The 21-year-old ended his first Truck season with two wins and also took home Rookie of the Year honours. He is the first GMS driver to win Most Popular Driver and the first Truck driver to win it and ROTY since Chase Briscoe in 2017.
“Damn, Can’t thank you all enough for the Most popular driver award,” Smith tweeted. “My fan base changed after @CLTMotorSpdwy earlier in the year and hasn’t stopped growing from there on. Truly something I’ve dreamed of & I owe it all back to you guys. Thank you!”
Besides the Chevrolet connection, all three drivers are part of the Hendrick Motorsports pipeline. JR Motorsports and GMS Racing maintain technical alliances with HMS; the former is owned by fifteen-time Cup MPD and ex-Hendrick driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Elliott and Smith have raced for them in the Xfinity Series. Elliott and Smith were also team-mates at GMS for three races in 2020.