Champions Week, day four report

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Champions Week - Day 4 Eight 2007 NASCAR Champions Join Salute to Jimmie Johnson Thursday Historic Brooklyn Bridge the Backdrop for Champions Photo; Drivers Exchange Autographs NEW YORK, N.Y. (Nov. 29, 2007) -- NASCAR's...

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Champions Week - Day 4

Eight 2007 NASCAR Champions Join Salute to Jimmie Johnson Thursday
Historic Brooklyn Bridge the Backdrop for Champions Photo; Drivers Exchange Autographs

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Nov. 29, 2007) -- NASCAR's 2007 champions gathered today for the 12th annual photo shoot traditionally taken at a New York City landmark. This year, the photo was shot at New York's Brooklyn Bridge Park. NASCAR's national series, developmental series, and weekly series champions joined in smiling for the cameras with the 124-year-old landmark bridge as the backdrop.

The photo session was one of the major highlights of the day which included an appearance at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Media Luncheon at Cipriani 42nd Street (see next page for a list of award winners), and a private dinner at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue, where the drivers each sign mats that will be used in framing their champion's "class picture." Their evening was to be capped by attending the invitation-only Sprint Party at New York's Marquee night club.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 16th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings, won the Chex Cereals Most Popular Driver Award for the fifth consecutive year.

"I was pretty honored for my fans to back me up and win the award for me again this year," Earnhardt said. "It's a coveted award. Looking at past years, it's very hard to win. I never thought or anticipated that I would be winning this award. There are a lot of drivers who would be proud to have it and I'm proud to come hear again and pick it up."

The visionary Bill France Jr., who passed away last June, won the Myers Brothers Award. Betty Jane France accepted the award to a standing ovation on behalf of her late husband and former NASCAR Chairman and CEO.

The day's events were the biggest so far for NASCAR's six 2007 regional and developmental series champions, who joined their national series peers for the Cipriani luncheon and the Brooklyn Bridge photo session.

Andrew Ranger of Quebec, champion of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, best known as a Champ Car driver prior to 2007, and is meeting his fellow NASCAR champions for the first time.

"This is my first time to New York, and I'm really surprised at how big the city is," Ranger said. "NASCAR has given us a huge opportunity to come here and meet a lot of people. Normally, you win a championship, get a trophy and go home. To be here in the same room with Jimmie Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya makes my first NASCAR championship even more special."

Joey Logano, 17, of Middletown, Conn., is NASCAR's Grand National Division, Busch East Series champion. A developmental driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, he's already well known to NASCAR national series drivers, but he's never seen how national series drivers receive their honors.

"It's pretty cool to see what NASCAR does with its champions in New York. There is so much more that goes on behind the scenes before the banquet that you don't see on television. It's been a great experience and I'm just trying to take it all in."

Of all the NASCAR champions in attendance, Steve Carlson of West Salem, Wisc., is the veteran of the experience. Carlson is the 2007 NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion. He's been to the New York celebration twice before as a champion of NASCAR's former Elite Division, the same title he won when the champion's photo shoot was held at past locations including Atlanta, Ga. and Homestead, Fla.

"Without a touring series to race in, I thought my travel days to the New York banquet were done," Carlson said. "My weekly track (LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway) is five blocks from my house and it's NASCAR sanctioned. We started out to run part time there this season and then went full time because we started winning and won the national championship and made it back to the champion's event in New York. NASCAR really honors its champions, and it's pretty cool. It's big."

Other NASCAR touring champions introduced at Thursday's luncheon include NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series champion Mike David of Modesto, Calif., NASCAR Whelen Modified Series champion Donnie Lia of Jericho, N.Y., and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Series champion L.W. Miller of Mooresville, N.C. NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., and NASCAR Busch Series champion Carl Edwards.

NASCAR Champions Week reaches a crescendo Friday, with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Awards Ceremony at the Waldorf=Astoria Grand Ballroom. Earlier in the day, all the champions will appear at Fanfest at Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square.

Friday, Johnson and his team will pose for formal photos on New York City's Park Avenue before attending several pre-awards ceremony receptions. That night, Johnson officially will be crowned the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion; the awards ceremony begins at 7 p.m. in the Waldorf=Astoria's venerable Grand Ballroom. ESPN Classic will air the ceremony at 9 p.m. (ET).

NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Media Luncheon Award Winners
Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award: Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge)
Manufacturers Championship Award: Chevrolet
Marketing Achievement Award: ESPN Marketing
Chex Cereals Most Popular Driver Award: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet)
Buddy Shuman Award: Robert Yates (owner, Robert Yates Racing)
Home Depot Humanitarian Award: Don Miller
Budweiser Pole Award: Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)
Checkers/Rally's Double Drive-Thru Challenge Award: Jeff Gordon
Commit Lozenges Commit to Win Award: Jeff Gordon
Goodyear Gatorback Fastest Lap Award: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)
WIX Filters Lap Leader Award: Jeff Gordon
Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award: No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet
Mobil 1 Command Performance: Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
USG Improving the Finish Award: Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford)
DirecTV Crew Chief of the Year Award: Mike Ford (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet)
Clevite Engine Builder of the Year Award: Earl Wheeler (Engine builder for Hendrick Engines)
Dow Automotive Strategic Call of the Race Award: Jimmie Johnson
Sunoco Diamond Performance Award: Jimmie Johnson
Goodyear Award: Jimmie Johnson
Champion Sponsor Award: Robert Niblock (CEO, Lowe's)
Champion Crew Chief Award: Chad Knaus (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)
Myers Brothers Award: Bill France Jr., accepted by Betty Jane France

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Awards Ceremony.

Where: Grand Ballroom, The Waldorf=Astoria Hotel, New York City.

When: 7-10:30 p.m. (ET). Friday, Nov. 30.

TV: ESPN Classic, 9 p.m. (ET).

Final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 6,723; 2. Jeff Gordon, 6,646; 3. Clint Bowyer, 6,377; 4. Matt Kenseth, 6,298; 5. Kyle Busch, 6,293; 6. Tony Stewart, 6,242; 7. Kurt Busch, 6,231; 8. Jeff Burton, 6,231; 9. Carl Edwards, 6,222; 10. Kevin Harvick, 6,199.

Raybestos Rookie of the Year: Juan Pablo Montoya.

Musical Entertainment: Kelly Clarkson.

Featured Performer: David Spade.

-credit: nascar

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