The reigning Daytona 500 champ.
A future Hall of Famer.
The driver of the #3 car.
NASCAR released the top-10 vote getters (so far) for the 2022 Most Popular Driver Award, and while there aren’t any big surprises on the list, we see some glaring omissions.
First, the current top 10, alphabetically, as voted by fans at Nascar.com/mostpopulardriver/ — Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr.
In all but two years over the past 37 seasons, the annual award has been won by either Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr., or current NASCAR rock-star Chase Elliott, who will likely win his fifth straight this year.
The award, presented by the National Motorsports Press Association, will be given out during next weekend’s annual awards banquet in Nashville.
As often happens with such things, the omissions are also noteworthy. Things can change as voting continues, obviously, but for now, an alphabetical list of some drivers you might’ve expected to see in the current top 10:
Concussion issues led to Kurt announcing his retirement late this past season. Over his career, he evolved from petulant young hot-rodder to a borderline elder statesman. Some going-away love seems to be in order, but the voters apparently think otherwise.
Nope, he’s not likely the life of any party, but you’d think any driver in the Hendrick stable would automatically inherit a large voting bloc.
So much for the power of winning the Daytona 500.
Didn’t he do a reality show this past season? It must not have worked that usual TV magic. Also, driving the #3 car for Childress Racing should carry some weight, you’d think.
A future Hall of Famer with 48 career wins, and one of the two most decorated racers without a Cup championship. But he has occasionally rubbed fenders and nerves the wrong way, and so far it seems those folks are hogging the voting booths.
His 2022 breakout season didn’t resonate with the voters. Did his mid-season breakup with Richard Childress sour the electorate?
His maiden voyage to Victory Lane and the Cup playoffs didn’t translate to votes. Daniel drives for Trackhouse Racing, a media savvy outfit, and is the series’ lone racer from Mexico, but so far that hasn’t translated to numbers at the polls.
Well, gotta be honest here. Yes, Bubba has brought a lot of new fans to NASCAR, but some long-standing fans haven’t warmed up to him — at least not yet. Some are still upset with his role in the Confederate flag ban. Then came his dangerous dust-up with Kyle Larson several weeks back. While he has his followers, there’s not yet enough of them to climb the polls.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Bubba Wallace, Denny Hamlin outside top-10 voting; Chase Elliott is in