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Sprint Cup - Johnson Preview

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HUNTERSVILLE, June 20, 2012: Driving will be on Jimmie Johnson’s mind as he spends the week in his home state of California. The five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion will host the sixth annual Jimmie Johnson Foundation Golf Tournament and Dinner Auction in the San Diego, Calif., area where he grew up prior to the weekend’s race activities at the 1.99-mile road course in Sonoma, Calif. While Johnson hopes to hit them straight earlier in the week, he hopes to navigate the turns of a track that nearly 3,000 sheep call home and where victory lane is known for its “Champion’s Goblet” filled with the area’s favorite libation.

Johnson has sipped from the goblet before. In 2010, he finally achieved a career goal by winning on a road course. The celebration that ensued had the goblet on a mini trophy tour (see quote below). And Johnson’s success at Sonoma was hard-fought. He has only three top-five finishes at the track where completing all 110 laps means completing 1,100 turns. It is apparent that Johnson has been getting better at all 1,100 turns. He has five top-15 finishes in the last six races. His lone DNF (did not finish) came in his very first Sprint Cup race at the track in 2002.

Johnson’s record at raising funds with his golf tournament has been more consistent. The sixth annual tournament has raised more than $500,000 every year and is on track to do so again. Lowe’s returns as the title sponsor, with help from many of Johnson’s other major partners, sponsors and friends. Funds raised enable the Jimmie Johnson Foundation/ Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Champions Grants, to award educational grants in Muskogee, Okla., and the San Diego, Calif., area where Chandra and Jimmie Johnson grew up, respectively, as well as Charlotte, N.C., where the couple currently resides.

So while good drives will be on everyone’s minds all week, Johnson knows that a fitting ending to the week could culminate with a raised goblet around the sheep-grazed farmland of the 1.99-mile road course in Sonoma.

Johnson’s Sonoma Sprint Cup Race Notes of Interest:

One win in 10 starts.

No poles.

Three top-five finishes (30 percent) and five top-10s (50 percent).

Average finish of 14.7.

One DNF (did not finish) in June 2002.

1,098 of 1,105 laps completed (99.4 percent) and 85 laps led.

Sprint Cup’s sixth-best driver rating (94.1 average of a possible 150 points).

Despite the sixth-best driver rating among all Sprint Cup competitors, Sonoma is in the bottom five of tracks for Johnson. Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway are lower.

Sprint Cup’s third-most laps led (85).

Johnson gained one spot in the driver standings after his fifth-place finish last weekend at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. He is fourth, 33 points out of first, after starting the season at a career-tying low of 37th at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

News and Notes – Sonoma:

Paint Scheme:

Johnson will pilot the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet at Sonoma.

Sixth Annual Jimmie Johnson Foundation Golf Tournament

Chandra and Jimmie Johnson host their sixth annual golf tournament and dinner auction Tuesday and Wednesday in San Diego. Funds raised go toward the Jimmie Johnson Foundation/Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Champions Grants, awarded to K-12 public schools in the areas where Chandra and Jimmie Johnson grew up (Muskogee, Okla., and the San Diego, Calif., area, respectively) and currently reside (Charlotte, N.C.).

The tournament has raised more than $500,000 each year and has awarded more than $2 million in grants. The tournament also funded construction of four houses for Habitat for Humanity in El Cajon, Calif.

Johnson Wearing Helmet Full of Hope at Sonoma

Johnson will wear a special helmet at Sonoma. The Jimmie Johnson Foundation launched the Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope program in March. Fans and media members nominated their favorite charity to be featured on Johnson’s helmet. Each charity also received $10,000 and an ice cream party from Blue Bunny. The charities featured on the Helmet of Hope are: The Nature Conservancy, The Chill Foundation, Fisher House, Scott Lake Elementary PTO, Alzheimer’s Association in honor of Dan Wheldon, First Descents, Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma County, Jessie Rees Foundation, Graham Rahal Foundation, Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, and Cabarrus (N.C.) Victims Assistance Network (CVAN). The United Way of Siouxland also is featured.

Fans Can See Johnson at Sonoma

For fans heading west to Sunday’s race at Sonoma, the track is offering the “Jimmie Johnson 4-Pack.” For $48.48 per person, fans receive four reserved tickets in the Turn 3 Terrace, four hot dogs, four sodas and a special question-and-answer session with Johnson (total price: $193.92)

Fans Can Also See Johnson at Upcoming Races

Fans celebrating the July 4 weekend at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway can see Johnson on race day. The “48 Experience” includes a fan forum prior to the race on July 7. The adult package is $48, with kids 12 and under only $10.

The “Jimmie Johnson New Hampshire Motor Speedway Ticket Package” includes two free tickets (one adult, one child) for the events on July 14, the day before the race, as well as two $48 tickets for the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 on July 15, including access to a pre-race question-and-answer session with Johnson

JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:, and

Can you talk a little about your golf tournament?

“We are excited for everything to come together. It is our big fundraising opportunity each year. It has been very successful over the years and this year is looking to be the same. I’m excited about it. There is always so much work leading up to the event and I’m looking forward to enjoying it. It’s a beautiful area, beautiful course, and a lot of great friends, family and sponsors all support it.”

Why is it important for you and Chandra to give back to your communities?

“The golf tournament is our big fundraiser and, the money raised there, the majority of it goes back to the San Diego area where I grew up. Growing up in San Diego, and then where my wife did in Oklahoma, we know the need and know the need within the public school system. Everyone is so short on budget, there is a huge gap there. We know the amount we are able to donate, which we wish was so much more, that it goes a long way and is very helpful to these small communities. It really impacts a lot of kids in those schools and their families.”

What is the key to winning at Sonoma?

“A good qualifying effort is very important because it presents an opportunity for you to play the fuel strategy game. The race has really been decided by how many times you pit. If you can limit yourself to two stops, I think that is the race-winning strategy. It’s really tough to win with three stops. I think it all starts in qualifying.”

Do you enjoy road racing?

“I love it. I wish we had more of them.”

What are your thoughts about the trophy the winner receives at Sonoma?

“The trophy at Sonoma is awesome. I love the fact it’s a big wine glass. The year I won, I enjoyed the wine that they poured up in victory lane. Then, as I went out and celebrated that night, I stayed the night and had some fun with friends. I carried that thing with me all through San Francisco and it had a margarita in it with a salted rim, and it even ended up with a chocolate shake in it at a diner early the next morning. It’s one of the cooler trophies and I don’t think I’ve ever been able to take a trophy with me to the party, so that was a lot of fun.”