NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points leader Jimmie Johnson had an exciting day of smoking tires, dodging fires and watching other cars launch right before his eyes; and no he wasn't at the track! He was in Southern California promoting the SONY HD 500 at Auto Club Speedway scheduled for this upcoming Labor Day weekend (September 3).
"There is a lot going on at a NASCAR race," said Johnson. "It's not just great racing. People who have never been to a NASCAR event before really have to come out and experience it for themselves. Being from California, I have different friends who come out to a race and experience it for themselves for the first time. They really have a lot of fun."
When most Southern Californians were beginning their workday, Johnson arrived at Universal Studios Hollywood for the grand opening of the "Fast & Furious: Extreme Close-Up" attraction. Johnson, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, waved the green flag signifying the inaugural run of the drift-race and 70-foot car jump maneuver that makes up the spectacular, new exhibit on the famed Studio Tram Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood.
After inquiring if he could give the jump a try, Johnson watched as two cars came from the bottom of a nearby hill and began drifting as another car came from the opposite direction and launched off of a ramp landing on another dirt patch. The incredible stunts were followed by rhythmic music and explosive pyrotechnics.
Johnson was on-site to help promote a dual package where fans get a ticket to the SONY HD 500, a pit pass and a ticket to the Universal Studios Hollywood for spectacularly low price of only $99. When the dust settled and the media was through interviewing him, Johnson was whisked away to the world-renowned Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills, where he and Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker were scheduled to speak to Los Angeles business leaders at a lunch hosted by the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission (LASEC).
Johnson arrived at Spago with a warm greeting from restaurant owner and world famous celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. After sampling a bit of Puck's specialties, Johnson wanted to give the world-class chef a taste of his famous victory celebrations. He took Puck outside and the two climbed into a Chevrolet SSR, where Johnson performed a "burnout" in front of the restaurant. The burnout was such a success and so much fun for both Johnson and Puck that they preformed an encore for the crowd gathered on the sidewalk.
"That was fun," exclaimed Puck, who joked about hiring Johnson as a pizza delivery driver. "I am a big fan of auto racing¿ I immigrated to Indianapolis from Europe. Not many immigrants move to Indianapolis, but I did and the racing was great¿ I wasn't a big fan of NASCAR at first, but now I am a really big fan because it is a great race. With my new restaurant (Apex) at Auto Club Speedway, people can now go to the race and get great food."
Auto Club Speedway will debut a brand new, redesigned Midway and Town Center, featuring a full service restaurant called Apex by Wolfgang Puck, this September during the Labor Day weekend SONY HD 500. Of course, with Puck's new connection to the NASCAR speedway, he returned the favor by showing Johnson how he makes his living. The duo took part in an impromptu cooking lesson and hurled a fireball in the kitchen that was caught on tape for Auto Club Speedway's new commercial.
The next time Johnson will be in Southern California, he'll compete in 800 miles of very competitive racing - he plans to race in both the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series SONY HD 500 on September 3 and the NASCAR Busch Series Ameriquest 300 on September 2. He's enjoyed success at Auto Club Speedway, claiming his first-ever series win in 2002 and holds an average finish of 7.57nat the 2-mile, D-shaped oval. For 2006, he holds a strong lead in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points with 2,434 points, 101 points higher than second
place Matt Kenseth and 313 ahead of third place Kasey Kahne.
Make sure you are at Auto Club Speedway on Labor Day weekend to see Johnson continue his on-track dominance in the SONY HD 500. Tickets are on sale now and start as low as $55. Pre-race pit passes and Party Zone is a great addition for the ultimate race weekend experience. For more information, call 800-944-RACE  or log on to www.californiaspeedway.