Championship driver and team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. 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.
Eighth in this year’s final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point 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 Busch (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 Kelly 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.
Such moves, Earnhardt Jr., said, “gives us the opportunity to call up some of the best talent at Hendrick Motorsports and give them a shot at taking the next step in their careers.
“That is the sort of foundation on which we built this company.”
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 Busch Series titles (2004-05) when the team was known as Chance2 Motorsports and operated in conjunction with Dale Earnhardt Inc.
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.
“I can’t take a lot of credit for how well we’ve done,” Earnhardt Jr. said of the group. “I know we’ve got a lot of people that have come into our company and influenced that. Kelley has steered the ship, and people like Greg Ives and the Eurys (Tony Sr. and Tony Jr.), all these people that have been through the company that have helped us climb another rung on the ladder one year at a time to (get) to where we are.”
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.
Others receiving votes for the 2014 Myers Brothers Award were ESPN and series sponsors Sprint and Nationwide Insurance.
Myers Brothers Award Winners
2014, Dale Earnhardt Jr.; 2013, Tony Stewart; 2012, Jeff Gordon; 2011, Drs. Joseph & Rose Mattioli; 2010, Jim Hunter; 2009, Barney Hall; 2008, T. Taylor Warren; 2007, Bill France Jr.; 2006, Benny Parsons; 2005, Rusty Wallace; 2004, Kyle and Patti 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, TNN: The Nashville Network; 1994, Brickyard 400/Indianapolis Motor Speedway; 1993, Goody’s Manufacturing Co.; 1992, Richard and Lynda Petty; 1991, Harry Gant; 1990; Dick Beaty; 1989, Bill France Jr.; 1988 Richmond International Raceway; 1987, ESPN; 1986, Hayride 500; 1985, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1984, Charlotte Motor Speedway; 1983, CBS-TV; 1982, MRN; 1981, Junior Johnson; 1980, STP & Champion Spark Plug Co.; 1979, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1978, Busch Beer; 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.