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Johnson vies for 'Athlete of the Year' award

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 3, 2007) – On the heels of his second consecutive NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship, Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) has the opportunity to acquire another title—that of Athlete of the Year.

Feted during last week’s Champions Week activities in New York City, Johnson again is among the candidates listed for the 2007 United States Sports Academy Athlete of the Year presented by USATODAY.com and MSNBC.com.

Johnson, who drives for Hendrick Motorsports, finished third in last year’s voting for Male Athlete of the Year.

The 2007 ballot for male athletes includes Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay, Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps and golfer Tiger Woods.

Johnson’s ’07 credentials speak volumes for making him a bona fide candidate:

• He is the first back-to-back series champion since teammate Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) accomplished the feat in 1997-98;
• His 10 wins in ’07 is the first double-digit win tally since ’98;
• He also won four consecutive races, another first since ’98;
• Johnson finished with a series-high Driver Rating of 110.3, according to NASCAR Loop Data;
• He also finished with four poles, 20 top fives and 24 top 10s.

Based in Daphne, Ala., the Academy’s Athlete of the Year program is the annual finale to its Athlete of the Month program, which honors men and women in sports around the world. Monthly honorees are selected via an international committee of former athletes, media, sports organizations and governing bodies.

Sports fans worldwide select the Athletes of the Year. Voting, done online, began Dec. 1 and ends Dec. 25. An overall winner is selected, along with male and female athletes of the year. Federer was the 2006 overall winner; Woods the ’06 male athlete of the year.

Vote online at http://www.ussa.edu/aoy/index.asp.