- Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 December 2008 23:41
- Published on Wednesday, 03 December 2008 23:41
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Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is the centerpiece of this week’s annual Champions' week celebration in New York City, a busy and joyful five days that marks the traditional end of the racing season.
Johnson, who captured his third consecutive title two weeks ago in the series finale at Homestead-Miami speedway, is the first driver in 30 years to win three consecutive series titles. He joins NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough as the only two drivers to accomplish that feat. Yarborough won his titles in 1976-78.
This week’s festivities mark the 28th consecutive year that NASCAR has crowned its Sprint Cup Series champion in New York. The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel has served as the sports host for each of those years, with its historic Grand Ballroom the site of Friday Night's awards ceremony.
It’s a busy week leading up to Friday Night's banquet for Johnson and his wife Chandra. The week long celebration got underway Monday with the annual Champions welcome dinner for the Number 48 team representatives.
Tuesday Johnson participated in a Champions week tradition, photo shoots at historic New York City landmarks. Later Tuesday night he appeared on the Motor Racing Networks NASCAR Live show.
Today, Wednesday, Jimmie Johnson will ring the opening bell at the New York Stock exchange. He’ll then attend the Tissot Countdown Clock event at the Marquee of the Hard Rock Café, attend a March of Dimes luncheon, a media luncheon at Foley’s and the Sprint media celebration at the Sports Museum of America.
Tomorrow, Johnson’s major event is the annual NASCAR NMPA (Motor Sports Press Association) Myers Brothers Media luncheon at Cipiani. 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 the other annual award winners. Following the awards luncheon, Johnson will participate in the traditional Times Square photo shoot outside the Hard Rock Café, and then attend the annual “Stewie Awards” orchestrated by fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart at the Sirius/XM Satellite radio studios.
Friday is the big day. Johnson, his family, and his Hendrick Motorsports team will participate in traditional photos during the afternoon, before attending the Sprint Cup Series awards ceremony Friday evening in the Waldorf-Astoria grand ballroom.
The news on the economy remains gloomy. Latest estimates are that upwards of 700 jobs have been lost from the various NASCAR race teams due to the recent economic downturn. More layoffs are expected as the sponsorship situation for 2009 shakes out. Former Lowe's Motor Speedway President and General Manager Humpy Wheeler, in conjunction with the North Carolina Motorsport Association, is heading up a Motorsports Employment Task force to address the job loss issue. “When you count up the small teams that we don’t hear about, the Nationwide teams, and smaller truck teams we likely have over 1000 people losing their jobs," said Wheeler. "Historically those who lost jobs in the past moved back to their hometowns and we lost them from the area. The main thing is that we don’t lose them from the region. This has a major economic impact on all of the community, including non-motorsports related business.”
The newly formed Motorsports Employment Task Force is working towards the development of a central clearing house that will support the displaced workers with information and steps to guide them in their sudden career path changes. It also will provide potential employees information and access about the benefits of hiring from the industry.
NCMA Executive director Andy Papathanassiou, a seventeen-year veteran of the industry, said that, “In all the years I’ve been involved in racing, it’s always been trending up with jobs, sponsors and support organizations. It’s important to remember that even in those good years, there were still times when teams closed down and sponsors pulled out. Now with the whole economy in recession, we are bound to be affected and even more aware of the bad news we hear."