Kyle Busch crushed the competition on the track and in the ballots as the first quarter winner in the 2008 Driver of the Year balloting.
The 23-year-old won a total seven races in NASCAR's top-three series — Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Trucks — the quarter that ended before his most recent victory last Saturday night at Darlington.
Despite his fast start to the season, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was surprised by the honor.
"Completely unexpected," he said. "We've just been going out and driving as hard as we can every week and really having a lot of fun doing it. We go out and race for wins and race for trophies, but to also get this kind of recognition for what we've been doing is pretty special."
The award is voted on by a national panel of motorsports writers and broadcasters and Busch was listed first on 14 of the 17 ballots. He was no lower than third on the others and had a total of 142 points.
Fellow NASCAR star Carl Edwards was second with one first-place vote and 72 points, while Danica Patrick, who drives for Andretti Green Racing in the IRL IndyCar Series, had two first-place votes and 51 points after becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar race.
Ashley Force, daughter of 1996 Driver of the Year John Force, was fourth in the voting with 49 points. She beat her father two weeks ago in the finals at the NHRA weekend in Atlanta, becoming the first woman to win a Funny Car event.
A total of 17 drivers scored points in the first-quarter voting, including fifth place Jason Meyers. He won three of the first six races in the World of Outlaws.