Monday night, November 30, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, and El Cajon native, Jimmie Johnson came to Lowe’s in Santee for a celebration of his fourth straight Series victory. This followed his visits to Crest Elementary School, which he attended as a boy, and a fan fest at Camp Pendleton for Marines and their families. A large crowd (rumored to be bigger than the one that greeted Donnie and Marie Osmond when they visited the old KCBQ studios in the late 70s) gathered in the Lowe’s parking lot to listen to the music of Las Vegas group Yellow Brick Road and cheer for the man they call JJ and #48.
The event kicked off at 7:00 pm, and by the time I arrived shortly after that the Lowe’s and Kohl’s parking lots were jam-packed. It didn’t help that some people felt they had the right to take up two spaces (especially frustrating when there were larger vehicles that managed to just use one space), but I managed to find a spot at the far west end (near the Chevron station) and headed over to the east end where a stage and two jumbo screens were set up. A large section of this end was fenced off for the celebration, and the crowd was packed around the stage. Carl’s Jr had a mobile restaurant parked nearby selling burgers and drinks. JJ’s #48 Chevy was on display to the left of the stage.
A quick note on the group Yellow Brick Road. This Vegas-based quintet plays classical rock “The Way You Remember It,” and I can agree on that. They did amazing covers of songs by such diverse groups as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Boston, AC/DC, and many more. The group is fronted by lead singer/guitarist Brody Dolyniuk, with Brooke St. James on lead guitar, David St. John on bass, Jonathan Gilcrest on keyboard and guitar, and James Sloan on drums. This is a group I would actually pay to listen to.
Of course the big ticket of the night was the man of the hour – Jimmie Johnson. One of the reasons for his visit to East County was to announce the recipients of grants from his Jimmie Johnson Foundation, which included Crest Elementary, Greenfield Middle School, and Granite Hills High School (announced at a press conference that morning at Crest Elementary). The evening featured the presentation of a check for $90,000 to Point Loma High School (my high school) to help rebuild the weight room. Athletic Director John Murphy and a student were there to receive the check, and a video clip from the school’s application was played.
As a part of the fun, three of Johnson’s childhood/high school friends and his dad, Gary Johnson, showed up to retell stories of the champ’s younger days. Also on hand were racing legends Ivan “Ironman” Stewart and Rick Johnson – two men who had a big influence on JJ’s career. After all the reminiscing, Jimmie brought out his lovely, and publicity-shy, wife, Chandra. At the end of the ceremony Santee Mayor Randy Voepel and County Supervisor Dianne Jacob came out to present their own awards: Mayor Voepel honoring Jimmie for his accomplishments and presenting Chandra with a large bouquet; Supervisor Jacobs presenting the Board of Supervisors’ proclamation of November 30, 2009, as “Jimmie Johnson Day” in San Diego County.
Man of the Hour, Jimmie Johnson
Father and Son, Gary and Jimmie Johnson
Johnson and Friends
Ivan “Ironman” Stewart
Santee Mayor Randy Voepel Presents Johnson with Key to the City (on the jumbo screen)
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob Presents Proclamation of “Jimmie Johnson Day” (on the jumbo screen)
Santee Chamber Member John Morley Shows His NASCAR Spirit
The Sprint Cup