Earnhardt Jr. Receives Myers Brothers Award
LAS VEGAS -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., a champion as both a competitor and team owner, has been named the recipient of the prestigious Myers Brothers Award for 2014.
Earnhardt, 40, was chosen by a vote of the National Motorsports Press Association and presented the award during Thursday's annual NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon held at the Wynn Las Vegas.
The Myers Brothers Award is named in honor of brothers Billy and Bobby Myers, two of NASCAR's pioneers from the 1950s. It has been presented annually since 1958 with the purpose of recognizing those that have provided outstanding contributions to the sport of stock car racing.
"I was so nervous but I'd never been more excited to give a speech," Earnhardt Jr. said afterward. "I was so proud for myself, my sister and JR Motorsports to get this acknowledgement. You never assume to get credited or get that pat on the back but when it does happen it's such a great feeling.
"I felt like JR Motorsports has been a great asset to the sport. I feel like we've done a lot of good things to help the sport. … This was kind of an acknowledgement to that -- that we're doing the right things and we need to continue with our direction.
"As an individual, I looked at the long list of people that had won this award and it's a who's who of the sport, the people that made the sport. To have my name in that list is overwhelming and a great honor."
Eighth in this year's final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings, Earnhardt qualified for the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup for the seventh time and finished the season with four victories, 12 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes.
He is a 23-time winner in Sprint Cup, twice a champion in the NASCAR Nationwide (now XFINITY) Series as a driver, and a three-time champion of that series as co-team owner.
But it is his care and concern for both the history and the future of the sport that has elevated the third-generation driver to being more than a successful competitor.
Along with sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Sprint Cup team owner Rick Hendrick, Earnhardt's JR Motorsports organization has become a successful pipeline for grooming talent at the track as well as at the race shop.
In 2014, JR Motorsports driver Chase Elliott became the youngest driver to win the Nationwide Series championship, and is expected to make a handful of Sprint Cup starts for Hendrick Motorsports in 2015 while also defending his series title. Elliott and teammate Regan Smith finished 1-2 in the series' points standings.
Elliott's crew chief Greg Ives will join Earnhardt next season as crew chief for the No. 88 Sprint Cup team at HMS.
Just this week, JRM announced that Dave Elenz and Jason Burdett had been named crew chiefs for two of the organization's three teams. Elenz previously served as an engineer on the No. 88 and 48 teams at Hendrick Motorsports while Burdett, who does have crew chief experience, was a car chief for eight seasons at HMS.
Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, competed full-time for JRM in 2008 and '09, finishing third in points each year. Sprint Cup competitors Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick and Cole Whitt also have driven for the team full-time, with each earning top-10 points finishes.
Fellow Sprint Cup driver Martin Truex Jr. won back-to-back Nationwide Series titles (2004-05) when the team was known as Chance2 Motorsports and operated in conjunction with Dale Earnhardt Inc.
"I can't wait to go home and share this with Kelley and everybody at the shop," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I have that passion and love everything about it, I love the history, the people from the past, (and) the people we have today. I really admire all the drivers that we race against and all the people in the garage.
"But we don't have the foundation, the foundation isn't as effective, the race teams don't happen and they run themselves as fluidly without Kelley, without all those people. This doesn't happen without those guys and they do so much."
Earnhardt Jr. isn't attracted to only the upper levels of NASCAR competition. He is one of the few NASCAR team owners that have given back to grassroots racing by fielding full-time operations for regional short-track racing as well. He has fielded Street Stock or Late Model entries at local short tracks since starting JRM.
This season, his Late Model drivers Josh Berry and William Byron finished first and second, respectively, in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series at historic Hickory Motor Speedway. The sweep gave JRM 1-2 points finishes in both series in which it competed full-time in '14.
It was the second LM championship in three years for the organization, as Berry won the title at Motor Mile Speedway in 2012.
Berry also made two Nationwide Series starts for JRM this season.
Earnhardt Jr.'s off-track endeavors have been just as noteworthy. This past season, he facilitated his 235th meeting through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a total that ranks among the top five for all professional athletes.
And the Dale Jr. Foundation raised a record $913,000 for distribution to 70 charities in 2014. The Foundation's focus is to give underprivileged individuals, particularly youngsters, the resources to improve their confidence and education.
"(It was) more emotional than I anticipated it being," he said of the honor. "Winning races is exciting, a huge thrill and you just explode inside. This was humbling; really you implode more than explode.
"It's such a great feeling. I really appreciate our group getting acknowledged for all the hard work. I've felt like for years that we were doing some great things on and off the race track at JR Motorsports. This really solidifies my opinion there."
Others receiving votes for the 2014 Myers Brothers Award were ESPN and series sponsors Sprint and Nationwide Insurance.
Below is a complete list of previous winners, courtesy of NMPAOnline.com.
Myers Brothers Award Winners
2013 Tony Stewart
2012 Jeff Gordon
2011 Drs. Joe & Rose Mattioli
2010 Jim Hunter
2009 Barney Hall
2008 Thomas Taylor Warren
2007 Bill France Jr.
2006 Benny Parsons
2005 Rusty Wallace
2004 Kyle & Pattie Petty
2003 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
2002 Mike Helton
2001 Dale Earnhardt
2000 Kyle Petty
1999 Junie Donlavey
1998 T. Wayne Robertson
1997 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
1996 Rick Hendrick
1995 The Nashville Network
1994 Brickyard 400 / Indianapolis Motor Speedway
1993 Goody's Manufacturing Co.
1992 Richard and Lynda Petty
1991 Harry Gant
1990 Dick Beatty
1989 Bill France Jr.
1988 Richmond International Raceway
1986 Hayride 500
1985 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
1984 Charlotte Motor Speedway
1982 Motor Racing Network
1981 Junior Johnson
1980 STP & Champion Spark Plug Co.
1979 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
1977 First National City Travelers Checks
1976 Junior Johnson
1975 Bill France Sr.
1974 H. Clay Earles
1973 Wood Brothers
1972 Winston Cigarettes
1971 Richard Petty
1970 Richard Howard
1969 David Pearson
1968 Wood Brothers
1967 Richard Petty
1966 Norris Friel
1965 Ned Jarrett
1964 Richard Petty
1963 Marvin Panch
1962 Hank Schoolfield
1961 Ned Jarrett
1960 Russ Catlin
1959 Lee Petty
1958 Bob Colvin