Chase Elliott is the most popular driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, but this year’s most popular Xfinity Series driver might be just as obvious.
As soon as Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired from NASCAR Cup Series competition after the 2017 season, it was obvious who would take over as the sport’s most popular driver.
After Earnhardt won the Most Popular Driver Award for 15 consecutive seasons to close out his career, it was Chase Elliott, the son of 1988 champion and 16-time Most Popular Driver Award winner Bill Elliott, who won it for the first time in his third season of full-time competition in 2018.
He has won it every year since, and coming off of a 2020 championship-winning season, the first championship-winning season for the most popular driver since his father won the 1988 title, he is well on his way to winning it for a fourth consecutive season in 2021.
But where the Most Popular Driver Award winner is generally less obvious is the Xfinity Series.
Veteran driver Justin Allgaier won it for the first time in 2019, and he won it again in 2020, giving JR Motorsports, the team co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., nine consecutive seasons during which one of their drivers won the award. Five different drivers have won it for the team during that span, including Elliott twice.
However, if we’re being honest about the meaning of the world “popular”, there is only one driver who can possibly win it this year.
And that driver is none other than Brandon Brown.
Brown rose to stardom not just within the NASCAR community but throughout the United States — heck, maybe even the globe — after earning his first career win at Talladega Superspeedway in early October.
In recent months, it has become somewhat common for sports fans to chant a three-word phrase, including a profanity followed by the name of a certain politician (we all know who I’m talking about), during major sporting events. This trend got started in NCAA football stadiums and has since spread to NFL stadiums and MLB stadiums.
And on this particular Saturday night, it spread to the four-turn, 2.66-mile (4.281-kilometer) high-banked oval in Lincoln, Alabama.
As NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast interviewed Brown on the frontstretch of the track, the chant broke out in the grandstands behind them.
“As you can hear the chants from the crowd, ‘Let’s go Brandon!’,” Stavast said.
But everyone knew (and could hear quite clearly) that what was actually being chanted (see video) was certainly not “Let’s go Brandon!”.
And because of that, “Let’s go Brandon!” has become a viral meme.
Shirts and other items with “Let’s go Brandon!” on them are being sold, and political social media posts of any nature are generally drawing at least one “Let’s go Brandon” in the replies, many times in place of the actual saying itself.
Brown himself even seemed to be enjoying it.
It’s really that simple; there is no more popular driver in the Xfinity Series than Brandon Brown in 2021.
The only issue here — and it is a big one — that could arise and prevent Brown from winning the award is if the non-NASCAR fans who have gotten in on the joke (and there are many, probably millions) don’t know how to vote — or if they don’t even know that voting on the most popular driver is a thing.
And let’s be honest; many probably don’t care. How many “Let’s go Brandon!” fans would even know the full name “Brandon Brown” if you asked them?
How many even know the joke started in NASCAR? You might be surprised.
So while you’re hearing “Let’s go Brandon!” everywhere, how much will those repeating the joke actually impact the vote totals?
And will the NASCAR fans who actually do vote annually do so this year to a great enough extent to deliver Brown the award?
Or will those fans still vote for whomever they would have voted prior to the emergence of Brown as somewhat of a worldwide superstar?
Will the mail-in ballots be enough to secure Brown the win?
These are the questions we’ll have to wait to find out answers to. But beyond a shadow of a doubt, no driver has been more “popular” in 2021 than Brandon Brown. Voting ends at 12:00 p.m. ET this Wednesday, December 1, so be sure to vote here while you still can.