NASHVILLE — Chase Elliott overcame the worst season of his NASCAR career to maintain his hold on the most popular driver award in the Cup Series for the sixth consecutive year.
Elliott missed seven races during the regular season, failed to make the 16-driver field for the playoffs and wasn't required to attend Thursday's season-ending awards ceremony at the Music City Center. But the 28-year-old from Dawsonville, Georgia, was there to pick up the only award solely voted on by fans.
Elliott beat Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney of Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson in the voting, per results released by the National Motorsports Press Association.
Justin Allgaier was voted most popular driver of the second-tier Xfinity Series, while Hailie Deegan won the award in the third-tier Truck Series.
Bill Elliott, father of the 2020 Cup Series champion and a NASCAR Hall of Famer, won the most popular driver award a record 16 times before "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" removed his name from the ballot.
"Really this award, in my eyes, has been a reflection and an extension of my family's place in the sport," Elliott said. "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."
Dale Earnhardt won the award in 2001, the year he was killed in a crash on the final lap of the season-opening Daytona 500, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was voted most popular driver the next 15 years. An Elliott or an Earnhardt has now won NASCAR's most popular driver for 33 consecutive years.
Darrell Waltrip in 1990 was the most recent driver outside of those two families to receive the Cup Series honor.
Elliott went winless in 2023 and failed to earn a berth in the playoffs for the first time in his eight seasons on the top circuit. He missed six races early in the season after breaking his left leg while snowboarding, and he was suspended for one race for deliberately wrecking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.
Elliott, who wound up 17th in the final standings and hasn't won a race since October 2022 at Talladega Superspeedway, said this year "was rough in a lot of ways, but that's life, you learn to continue to grow and reinvent yourself in new ways."
He also underwent shoulder surgery on Nov. 17 to repair a torn labrum, but Hendrick Motorsports said Elliott will be ready for the start of the 2024 season. The Daytona 500 kicks things off on Feb. 18.
"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," Elliott said. "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."