May 1, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s strong start to the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship has earned him top honors for the First Quarter of the 2014 Driver of the Year award.
Earnhardt netted seven first-place votes and 88 points under the DOTY points system from a panel of American broadcasters and journalists.
Fellow Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick and Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader Will Power tied for second with 80 points, but Harvick had more first-place votes (five) than Power (three).
“I’m pretty blown away that we’ve won the First Quarter 2014 Driver of the Year Award,” Earnhardt said in a statement. “It’s an honor and really humbling to be chosen.
“The members that vote on this award are a credible group, and it’s an award that’s meant a lot to different drivers. It’s one that I’m proud to have been voted for.”
Junior could become the third winner’s son to claim the annual DOTY award. His father, seven-time Sprint Cup champ Dale Earnhardt Sr., claimed the annual DOTY in 1987 and 1994.
Other father-son DOTY winners include Al Unser Sr. (1970) and Al Unser Jr. (1990), as well as Mario Andretti (1967, 1978, 1984) and Michael Andretti (1991).
“Dale and his crew chief, Steve Letarte, are in the groove,” said DOTY president Barry Schmoyer. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see them at the Sprint Cup Championship table later this year.”
Outside of a DNF at Texas Motor Speedway, Earnhardt’s season so far has been solid.
He started his 2014 campaign with his second victory in the Daytona 500, which effectively locked him into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Additionally, he has claimed three runner-up finishes at Phoenix, Las Vegas and Darlington.