NASCAR: Even midseason, accolades are pouring in for Jimmie Johnson

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJune 20, 2014 

— Accolades continue to pour in for six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson from coast to coast.

Earlier this week, Johnson and his Jimmie Johnson Foundation raised more than $650,000 at his annual charity golf tournament, and he was honored by his hometown of El Cajon with a “Guitar to the City” and a street named after him.

“I knew we were having an event in El Cajon, but I had no idea it was going to be that big and they were going to make so many amazing things happen,” Johnson said.

“They gave me a guitar to the city instead of a key to the city. Named it Jimmie Johnson day; just a crazy experience and fans were everywhere.”

On Wednesday, Johnson and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team will be honored at a White House ceremony with President Obama for their 2013 Cup series championship.

According to a statement from the White House Press Office, the visit will continue the tradition started by Obama of honoring athletes and sports teams for their efforts to give back to their communities.

Test speeds up at Indy: Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, said driver Tony Stewart was running speeds as much as a second faster than normal when he blew a tire during a test earlier this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Like a lot of race tracks we’ve been to this year with this new car package, it appears the race pace can be significantly faster than it’s been in the past,” he said.

“It appears that increased, sustained speed over that run generated a significant amount of heat, which eventually caused the right-front to go down (on Stewart’s car). Those are the conditions we have to consider in making the right decisions for the race.”

Goodyear will continue to talk to the Indianapolis test teams and review the data from the session to come up with its final recommendation in the next week. Goodyear also has tire tests planned at Richmond, Va. (July 8-9) and Homestead, Fla. (Aug. 26).

Jones gets three Nationwide races: Erik Jones, who has been running a part-time schedule in the Truck series this season with Kyle Busch, will run three Nationwide Series races this season for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Jones, 18, will make his debut in JGR’s No. 20 Toyota in the July 19 race at Chicagoland. He is scheduled to compete Aug. 22 at Bristol, Tenn., and Nov. 8 at Phoenix.

“They are always a threat in the Nationwide Series,” Jones said of JGR. “I was able to test with the team and (crew chief) Kevin Kidd a few weeks ago in Memphis and felt really comfortable. I have high expectations for all three races.”

Extra track time: Four Cup series drivers – Michael Annett, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – are entered in Saturday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway.

Annett, Dillon and Larson are rookies this season. Stenhouse is in his second season in the series. Cup drivers won this race in 2011 (Joey Logano) and 2012 (David Gilliland).

Stenhouse returns to Silver Crown: Stenhouse will compete in the June 29 U.S.A.C. Silver Crown series race at Memphis International Raceway. Stenhouse is a former winner of the track’s rookie of the year honors (2003).

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