Champions Week, day four report

NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES CHAMPIONS WEEK -- DAY 4 * Special Award Winners Recognized: Earnhardt Jr. wins fourth Most Popular Driver Award * NASCAR's Jim Hunter receives Buddy Shuman Award * Champions commemorate the season at Rockefeller ...

NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES CHAMPIONS WEEK -- DAY 4

* Special Award Winners Recognized: Earnhardt Jr. wins fourth Most Popular Driver Award

* NASCAR's Jim Hunter receives Buddy Shuman Award

* Champions commemorate the season at Rockefeller Plaza's Famous Christmas Tree

NEW YORK (Nov. 30, 2006) -- On the eve of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Awards Ceremony in New York, over $1 million in special awards were presented at the NASCAR/National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Myers Brothers luncheon.

Headlining the list of award winners was Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), who won the Chex Cereals Most Popular Driver Award for the fourth consecutive year, and 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet), who finished third in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and received $50,000 as the series' top rookie racer.

Chevrolet received the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Manufacturers' Championship for the 30th time. Chevrolet teams won 23 races in 2006, while seven of the 10 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers drove Chevrolets.

During the presentation, Chevrolet made a surprise presentation of its own -- giving a 2007 Chevrolet Corvette convertible to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson's wife, Chani.

Other special award winners included:

NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Hunter, who was honored with the Buddy Shuman Award, in recognition of his longtime role and impact in the NASCAR community. Benny Parsons, the 1973 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion and NBC television commentator, who was honored with the Myers Brothers Award, for his contributions to the growth of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing.

The No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet team takes top honors on Friday evening, but also received several awards on Thursday. Johnson won the $105,000 Checker's/Rally's Double-Drive Thru Pit Award, the Goodyear Award -- including a scale replica of his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet made from gold -- and the $75,000 Sunoco Diamond Performance Award; the Hendrick Motorsports engine department won the $107,000 Clevite Engine Builder of the Year Award; and crew chief Chad Knaus was recognized with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Championship Crew Chief Award.

Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet) received three different awards for his on-track performance -- the $135,000 Bank of America Card Services Mid-Race Leader Award; the $100,000 USG Improving the Finish Award and the $75,000 WIX Lap Leader Award.

Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) received $100,000 for winning the Budweiser Pole Award and $101,000 for winning the Commit Lozenges Commit to Win Award. Kahne won six pole positions in 2006.

Mike Ford, crew chief for Denny Hamlin, won the $102,400 DIRECTV Crew Chief of the Year Award.

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford) won the $75,000 Goodyear Gatorback Fastest Lap Award.

The No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet team of Jeff Burton received the $75,000 Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award.

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) received the $100,000 Mobil 1 Command Performance Award.

Allstate, the Official Insurance Partner of NASCAR, was presented with the Marketing Achievement Award.

Champions gather at Rockefeller Plaza ... An annual Champions Week tradition is the gathering of champions from all of NASCAR's national, regional and local racing series, for a commemorative photo opportunity. It is the only time during the year that all of NASCAR's champions from 12 different racing series are together in one location. Since 2002, this exclusive gathering has been held in New York as part of Champions Week.

On Thursday, the group -- including Johnson, NASCAR Busch Series champion Kevin Harvick, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Todd Bodine, NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series champion Eric Holmes, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series champion Mike Olsen, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Mike Stefanik, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion Junior Miller, NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series champion Tim Schendel, NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series champion Gary Lewis, NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series champion J.R. Norris, NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series champion Rip Michels and NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series champion Philip Morris -- assembled at Rockefeller Plaza, near the city's famous Christmas Tree, for their photo.

One day and counting ... Champions Week concludes Friday with a final day of activities for Jimmie Johnson, the rest of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers and 11th-place driver Tony Stewart. Johnson and his team will pose for photos along Park Avenue in Manhattan, before attending several pre-Awards Ceremony receptions. The Awards Ceremony begins at 7 p.m. in the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel's Grand Ballroom. At 6 p.m. (ET), SPEED will air a special one hour pre-show: "NASCAR Takes Manhattan." TNT will televise the Awards Ceremony beginning at 9 p.m. (ET), featuring musical entertainment by singer/songwriter Jewel and comedy performances by Jay Mohr.

-credit: nascar.com

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Todd Bodine , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Benny Parsons , Junior Miller , Eric Holmes , Denny Hamlin , Tim Schendel , Chad Knaus , Rip Michels , Philip Morris , J.R. Norris , Gary Lewis , Jim Hunter
Teams Hendrick Motorsports