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Johnson in New York -- Day three in review

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 3, 2008) – Day three of Champions Week was a busy one for three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson got an early start in the morning, by ringing the New York Stock Exchange’s Opening Bell, in what has become an annual tradition for the series champion. Following an appearance at the Tissot Countdown Clock event at the Marquee of the Hard Rock Café, Johnson attended the March of Dimes Luncheon at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel, where he was the recipient of the organization’s Sportsman of the Year Award.

Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and team owner Rick Hendrick later attended a media luncheon at Foley’s Pub and Restaurant, where more than 40 New York City and Northeast region media visited with and interviewed the three key components of this year’s No. 48 championship team. A host of NASCAR fans from the area were also in attendance, as Johnson posed for photographs and signed autographs for the faithful. 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Raysbestos Rookie of the Year Regan Smith also was recognized at the luncheon.

“It (winning three straight championships) is starting to sink in some,” said Johnson, who joins Cale Yarborough as the only NASCAR drivers ever to win three consecutive titles. “I probably won’t realize just how special this run’s been until I retire one day. I can tell you that we’re already looking ahead to next season, and doing all we can to win another championship. I can remember I was up in our transporter at Texas late in the season and Chad (Knaus) was already studying some computer data regarding next year’s Daytona 500 car.”

Hendrick, who won his eighth Cup championship this season, says the accomplishments of the No. 48 team have been extraordinary.

“The work and dedication from this race team have been second to none,” Hendrick said. “To win three straight championships in a sport as competitive as NASCAR is really extra special.”

Knaus applauded the leadership Hendrick provides to the entire organization.

“To win three in a row is a real tribute to the leadership “Mr. H” provides our team,” said Knaus, who becomes the first crew chief in NASCAR history to win three straight championships. “He’s such a special person in my life.”

Smith, a native of Upstate New York, said winning the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award was a “tremendous honor.”

“Being able to celebrate this award in my home state is really a big deal,” Smith said. “This is actually my first trip to New York City and I know it’s going to be an awesome experience.”

Thursday: Johnson’s major event this day is the annual NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Media Luncheon at Cipriani. He’ll be joined by the rest of the top 12 drivers in the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, plus Raybestos Rookie of the Year Regan Smith and other annual award winners. Following the awards luncheon, Johnson will participate in the traditional Times Square photo shoot outside the Hard Rock Café, then attend the annual Stewie Awards, orchestrated by fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, at Sirius/XM Satellite Radio studios.

Friday: The Big Day. Johnson, his family and his Hendrick Motorsports team will participate in traditional photos during the afternoon, before attending the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony that evening in the Waldorf=Astoria’s Grand Ballroom.

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