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Johnson's Atlanta win nets over $1 million for wildfire relief

 

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 31, 2007) - Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag at Sunday’s NASCAR NEXTEL CUP race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but the American Red Cross’ California Wildfire relief efforts might have been the biggest winner.

Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team joined with their sponsor Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW) and Sonic Automotive (NYSE: SAH) Chairman Bruton Smith to contribute more than $1 million to the Red Cross California wildfire relief efforts. Johnson, 32, a native of El Cajon, Calif., plans to present a check to the American Red Cross at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday before the race.

“I am very proud of everyone who has jumped on board with us to donate winnings to the victims of California fires,” said Johnson whose Hendrick Motorsports team earned $343,861 in race winnings on Sunday. “I appreciate Lowe’s, Hendrick Motorsports and Bruton Smith, Sonic Automotive and the NASCAR community for their effort to help out the people in Southern California during this devastating time.”

In addition to matching the race winnings, Lowe’s designated each of its 85 stores in California as cash donation sites for customers and employees. Those donations plus another match by Lowe’s raised an additional $10,000.

“The donations to the Red Cross California wildfire relief efforts were instrumental in our ability to provide assistance to residents, firefighters and first responders in Southern California,” said Kathleen Loehr, interim senior vice president of Development at the American Red Cross. “This kind of help and generosity is critical during times of disaster.”

Smith, who also is the founder and chairman of Speedway Motorsports (NYSE: TRK), said, “On behalf of all of our associates at Sonic Automotive, some of which have been affected by these fires, I’m delighted that we could be involved. I commend Jimmie on his victory on and off the track Sunday in Atlanta. He is a wonderful champion in so many ways. There’s a lot of work to do in California and this effort will help.”

The Red Cross is providing people affected by the fires, including residents, firefighters and first responders, with shelter, food, water, clean up and comfort kits, counseling, basic healthcare and family connecting services. The California wildfires have burned almost half a million acres and forced the evacuation of over a million residents.

The Red Cross has determined that current financial donations and pledges will cover the Red Cross’ cost for its response to the wildfires, estimated not to exceed $12-15 million.

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