Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker threw a heroes celebration for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Champion and California native Jimmie Johnson today at the San Diego Hall of Champions. The day was filled with dignitaries honoring Johnson for his achievements and culminated in San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders declaring January 31 "Jimmie Johnson Day" in San Diego.
"We are pleased to have Jimmie Johnson right here in San Diego to celebrate his 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Championship," said Sanders. "Proclaiming January 31st 'Jimmie Johnson Day' in San Diego will be a lasting tribute to our native son."
"Winning the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship was one of the most incredible experiences of my life," said Johnson. "I often forget to look back at where I started and what I have accomplished. An event like today helps me do that. Being able to come back to San Diego to celebrate with family, friends and fans here, and from my hometown of El Cajon, is truly an honor. Since it's 'Jimmie Johnson Day', I'd like to tell everyone they can have the rest of the day off."
The standing room only crowd cheered as Johnson made a surprise entrance, driving his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet right into the San Diego Hall of Champions. After a brief introduction, Hall President Alan R. Kidd read a special letter from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Johnson also received a special proclamation from Rick Terazzas of Congressman Duncan Hunter's office and a County Proclamation from Supervisors Ron Roberts and Dianne Jacob. Zucker shared highlights of Johnson's 2006 season leading up to his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victory, and commented on how excited San Diego was to embrace Johnson's return.
"Auto Club Speedway couldn't resist the opportunity to bring Jimmie to his hometown to celebrate," said Zucker. "Jimmie's integrity, professionalism and grit, on top of the fact that he's a great driver, give him the heart and spirit of a true champion. There is no question, we as Southern Californians are very lucky to call him our own."
While Johnson led the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season last year to take home the trophy, he has a special place in his heart for Auto Club Speedway since he won his first ever NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at the track back in 2002. He's hoping to repeat that victory when he returns to Auto Club Speedway for the West Coast Premiere of NASCAR on February 25 for the Auto Club 500.
Located just 45 miles east of Los Angeles in San Bernardino County, Auto Club Speedway now truly captures the essence of what makes Southern California unique. The new Opportunity, California FanZone allows guests to peruse great merchandise at the Impulse retail store in the new Motorola Town Center, enjoy the flavors of California's most famous chef at Apex by Wolfgang Puck and take in the sounds of live bands and special attractions. Tickets for the Auto Club 500 weekend are going fast! To purchase tickets or to receive more information, call 800-944-RACE  or visit racetickets.com or www.autoclubspeedway.com.