Notes From The NASCAR Nation: A Schedule Fit For A Six Time Champion
BY DAVE GRAYSON
Needless to say, when you’re the newly crowned NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ champion you’re going to be the focal point of the annual champion’s week in Las Vegas. With that comes a public appearance schedule that seems impossible. However, for six time champion Jimmie Johnson it’s a schedule he’s very familiar with. It’s a schedule fit for a six time champion.
The champion’s schedule began on Monday morning when Johnson, along with championship winning crew chief Chad Knaus, happily paid a visit to the corporate headquarters of Lowes Home Improvement stores, in Mooresville-North Carolina, their long time team sponsor. Johnson and Knaus had the pleasure of presenting Lowes a replica of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ champion’s trophy in front of a SRO crowd of Lowes associates.
Next on the schedule was a cross country flight to Los Angeles where Johnson spent a busy afternoon visiting the home of Fox Sports 1. During that visit, Johnson did television interviews for “Fox Sports Live”, “The OT”, and “UFC Tonight” along with an interview with Fox Sports’ Curt Menefee.
The Monday schedule concluded with a flight to Las Vegas, the home of NASCAR’s Champion’s Week, and the opportunity for a well deserved good night’s sleep.
That Monday night rest was a good thing because Johnson began early Tuesday with interviews with a pair of top-rated rock and country music radio stations; CBS, FOX and Univision television outlets; MRN Radio and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
From that group of Tuesday interviews, it was the conversation with the “Motor Racing Network”, (MRN), that garnered the most attention. That’s because Johnson responded to Donovan McNabb’s comments about race drivers not being athletes saying he would like to place McNabb inside of a race car to prove otherwise.
It was approximately three weeks ago when the former NFL quarterback, now a member of the “Fox Sports Live” television panel, said Johnson was not an athlete because “all he does is just drive a car.” The comment incensed a nation full of racing fans who lit up the social media taking McNabb to task.
During the MRN interview, Johnson said that he had spoken with McNabb on the telephone adding “ He’d been trying to track me down. I met Donovan a few years ago at a Super Bowl event. He’s a super-nice guy. He has an opinion, and he seemed open to the notion of following through on the opinion and what our sport is about. We joked about it. Hopefully, we can get something set up in the spring and get him in a car.”
The Las Vegas FOX affiliate studio, visited by Johnson, boasts a NASCAR-themed slot machine, at which celebrities are invited to try their luck – all in the name of charity. Johnson hit a $250 jackpot to which he added $300 for donation to the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.
During the Tuesday public appearance schedule Johnson also participated in a Q&A session at the 2013 NASCAR Motorsports Marketing Forum and then visited the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign at the south end of the famed Las Vegas Strip where he signed autographs for waiting fans. Tuesday’s activities wound down with a round of photo ops and the annual Champion’s Dinner hosted by NASCAR President Mike Helton’
The Champion’s Week schedule is also heavily loaded with personal appearances for Johnson on Wednesday and Thursday. However, Johnson seems to handle the demands on his time in the same manner he handled his 2013 racing season: he seems to take everything in stride and accents the positive.
He’s also well aware of what’s coming on Friday. That’s the night he officially receives the champion’s trophy, the champion’s ring and that huge champion’s check from Sprint.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Banquet will be carried live by Fox Sports 2, as well as NASCAR (dot) Com beginning at 9pm eastern time. Live radio coverage, beginning at 8pm eastern time, will be provided by The Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio channel 90.