PRESS CONFERENCE NOTES: JIMMIE AND CHANDRA JOHNSON ANNOUNCE CHARITABLE FOUNDATION - HIGHLIGHTS JIMMIE JOHNSON: "It's a very special day today for Chandra and myself. We've been working very hard over the off-season -- actually for the last year...
PRESS CONFERENCE NOTES: JIMMIE AND CHANDRA JOHNSON ANNOUNCE CHARITABLE FOUNDATION - HIGHLIGHTS
JIMMIE JOHNSON: "It's a very special day today for Chandra and myself. We've been working very hard over the off-season -- actually for the last year or two on our foundation. We haven't really had an event or done anything yet, but today we are announcing that the Jimmie Johnson Foundation is officially in action and we'll tell you about the first fund-raiser that's going to go along with that.
"We're starting off with an ebay® online auction that will be ongoing. I'm going out to my good friends and trying to find different packages and experiences that the fans can on to the site and bid for them and get deeper into the football and baseball world. We have some other things we're going to launch when this first action is over. It's a 7 - 10 day window. We'll have everything from poker tournaments and the Chicago Bolts. I don't want to give away too many secrets because I want everybody to go to www.jimmiejohnsonfoundation.org and click on the ebay® link and take a look and begin bidding on these great experiences.
Chandra and I have been supporting a variety of other charities (like) the Victory Junction Gang Camp, Rick's (Hendrick) Marrow Foundation, the American Red Cross, the Randy Dorton Memorial Fund and also the Make A Wish Foundation. They have been very special to us. But we've been blessed with so many great things that we want to start our foundation and network around and use our friends and everybody involved and really try to raise money for a great cause. We need to do something to give back.
"I'll let my friend talk now about some of the packages that will be on the site starting tomorrow morning. The big goal for us is to really drive traffic to the site so that people can read the details and start bidding on the experiences. There will be things on there all the time. It's really a site where fans can go to get signed autographs from myself and other drivers and friend outside of the racing world. I'll stop there and let Mr. Hendrick speak."
RICK HENDRICK, OWNER OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS: "I'm really excited and know that Chandra and Jimmie are going to do a great job with this foundation. The experience I want to be a part of is a sportsfishing for two days and accommodations for two rooms for one night. I'm going to go along and it'll be in Key West aboard a 67-foot sports fisherman (yacht) and hopefully we can have a lot of fun and catch a lot of fish. Jimmie has caught sailfish and so have Jeff (Gordon) and all the guys. It'll be a neat experience and we look forward to see what it will bring and raise for the foundation."
MIKE HAMPTON, PITCHER, ATLANTA BRAVES: "My wife and I have a foundation. It's the Mike Hampton Pitching In Foundation. We get so much joy out of helping kids. This is going to be an awesome thing for Jimmie and Chandra. We get so much pleasure out of seeing a smile on a kid's face.
"I'm going to sign a glove. One year I took the Golden Glove away from Greg Maddux when he took a year off. So I'm going to sign a glove and I also have a Chipper Jones jersey and four tickets to opening day. They will be behind home plate and will be premium seats. I appreciate being here. I'm such a huge race fan. I've been coming here to Daytona since 1981 with my father. We actually have a motor home outside of Turn 1 that's in about the same spot we've been parking in ever since then. To be involved with Jimmie's foundation and NASCAR in general is an honor."
MARCUS GILES, INFIELDER, ATLANTA BRAVES: "Just like Mike (Hampton) said, there's just nothing like seeing a kid smile. Sports, nowadays, keeps kids out of trouble too. Hopefully we can help with that aspect. I'm offering four tickets for somebody to hang out with us and basically meet some of the guys and hang out and watch the game. I think my brother (Brian) from the Padres, is going to do the same thing. It's for a good cause, and hopefully we can raise some money."
JOHNSON: "Yes, I think Brian is going to offer up a VIP package that's going to post on the website. And another good friend, Russ Ortiz, who plays for the Diamond Backs now, is going to do something as well."
MIKE RUCKER, DEFENSIVE END, CAROLINA PANTHERS: "Anytime you can be a part of someone doing some positive things in the community (is good). I really feel like kids are the way our future is going to be. They're going to be taking care of us when we're old. Anytime you can help them in a positive way, I'm all over it. Anything I can do, I'm there for you. My package is going to be four tickets to any home game. A meet and greet at training camp. We'll have some of the guys come over and they'll be able to meet some people. There will be some other things in the package that we'll offer up. I'm looking forward to seeing the stuff on the website myself and might have to open up my wallet and bid on some things myself."
JOHNSON: "We're trying not to mention too many details because we want everyone to go to the site and really look at the VIP packages. By working in this sport, there are so many things we are able to do behind the scenes in the racing world. And these guys have been nice enough to offer behind the scenes packages in their worlds.
"The official start is today. Our auction goes live tomorrow. It's going to be a 10-day auction. We have more auctions to come. One of our first goals is to raise enough money to build a bowling alley at the Victory Junction Gang Camp. We'll have more details on that later and will have a specific fundraiser for that down the road. But every dollar earned is going to go toward that. I think everyone in racing has a special spot for the Victory Junction Gang Camp."
IS DOING PACKAGES WITH YOUR FRIENDS GOING TO BE AN EXCHANGE THING FOR THEIR FOUNDATIONS?
JOHNSON: "Yeah, believe me. I know the drivers have asked me to participate in their fund-raisers and I've been more than willing. I'll definitely ask favors back. I think we all share the same opinion. We've been so lucky and blessed to be where we are. There's just something inside that says we need to do these things. I've been participating in other fund-raisers. Hopefully my name is now recognizable enough to where I can have a foundation and start up something on my own that adds more to the community. It's very special for Chandra and me."
DID YOU GET ANY OF YOUR NEWFOUND FRIENDS FROM YOUR TV DEBUT ON LAS VEGAS TO JUMP IN ON THIS DEAL?
JOHNSON: "Yeah, we do have a package from the Las Vegas shoot that will be up on the website. I tried to get Jay Moore and Nicki Cox, who I actually worked with in the show, to be out here today but hopefully we'll have them come out at the Fontana race. But I do have a Las Vegas package up on the site."
DID YOU REACH OUT TO ONLY FRIENDS TO START THE FOUNDATION PROGRAM OR TO OTHERS YOU DON'T KNOW AS WELL?
JOHNSON: "I have done things for a lot of other guys who have foundations so we did ask them to participate and everyone was more than willing. But it isn't all racing related." CHANDRA: "Several of the experiences are from our friends as well. We have friends in New York that have donated dinners, one is SushiSamba which is a very nice Sushi restaurant in New York. We have some lounges that participated. Friends of mine from the Amazing Race donated lunch in Miami. Most of them so far are friends, but we did reach out to people we didn't know as well. JIMMIE - "To get the launch going, we leaned on our friends at first but we do have other relationships as well that we have developed along the way we will ask for help later. But for the first round, we definitely went to our friends first. I could only bring so many of our friends down here, but there are quite a few experiences on the website and we are going to continue to launch 10-day auction and put other big experiences on there was well."
HOW DID YOU MEET MIKE RUCKER?
JOHNSON: "I actually did a couple of things with him in the Charlotte area. He came to the All Star event in Charlotte. He came to the trailer and hung out a little bit and walked out on the race track with me before the race and I won the race. He was with us there in the pits so I have known him for a while now and we have kept tabs on one another. He has been by the shop a few times."
WAS JEFF GORON HELPFUL TO YOU WITH DEVELOPING THE FOUNDATION SINCE HE HAS ONE THAT HAS BEEN UP AND RUNNING FOR A WHILE?
JOHNSON: "He has been very helpful. My office has definitely been talking to his office, working through all the details to get stuff set up. Personally, just being around Jeff and knowing how he handles certain things it has rubbed off on my as well."
WHAT IS THE MOTIVATION FOR YOU TO DO THIS FOUNDATION?
JOHNSON: "It is something that has been growing inside of me for a while. I have just had so much good fortune and I feel like I need to give back. We have had so many good things happen in my life, I just want to give back. I have had more happen in my life than I would ever think would and it is something that has been really weighing on Channy and I. We have had the paperwork in place for about a year and a half but we really haven't had the time to make a move on it. So in the off season, we decided to just get this thing done, get aggressive and get this thing out there. Even if we aren't unloading with these big events, every dollar earned is going to a good cause. So lets just get this thing rolling and do it. I guess the weight of exceeding my dreams, doing more than I ever thought I would and in a financial stable situation, was the reason. I haven't really have anything rock me or my family. There hasn't been any cancer, or anything really specific to make me support or start a foundation. It was just something I thought needed to happen and I am happy to do it."
DID YOU TRY TO GET THE FOUNDATION WORKED OUT TO MAKE THE ANNOUNCEMENT HERE AT DAYTONA?
JOHNSON: "It was something that we strategically decided to launch at the beginning of the year. We were close to having things in order by the end of last season but with the championship chase and everything going on surrounding that, there was just too much on our plates so we just looked toward Daytona to launch it. We decided that even though there is a lot going on while we are down here, everyone is here from the national media so it would be a good opportunity for us to get our word out and have it spread as far as possible."
HOW DID THE CAR FEEL OUT THERE TODAY DURING PRACTICE?
JOHNSON: "The car is good. We ended up in the top five I guess. The winds were playing games with everyone so it is a little tough to tell who really has the best car and who is going to win the pole tomorrow. I feel like we have a really good chance at it.
DOES WINNING THE POLE MATTER OR IS IT MORE IMPORTANT TO SET UP FOR THE 150S ON THURSDAY?
JOHNSON: "If you can be first or second, it is great but after that it doesn't matter because you have to race to win after that. Our philosophy has been that if we unload and are in the top-five and have a shot at the pole, we will waste the time and effort to really work for it. If not, we will just settle in and just worry about race trim. "