HAMPTON, Ga. – official release — HHP/Harold Hinson photo — Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson visited the metro Atlanta area Wednesday to promote Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR night race weekend to the Atlanta business community and race fans.
Johnson began the day with a live interview on Headline News’ Morning Express With Robin Meade. During the session, Johnson raced Meade in a 270-degree racing simulator.
Johnson, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, was hosted at the State Capitol by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. He officially proclaimed Aug. 31, 2014, the date of the Speedway’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, to be Atlanta Motor Speedway Day.
Speedway Motorsports Inc., Chairman O. Bruton Smith, SMI President and Chief Operating Officer Marcus Smith and NASCAR President Mike Helton were also in attendance at the event. The announcement was also attended by Speedway President Ed Clark along with 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees Bill Elliott and Rex White. As part of the visit, O. Bruton Smith presented Governor Deal with a commemorative Atlanta Motor Speedway helmet.
“With our NASCAR Weekend three weeks away, we greatly appreciate Jimmie Johnson and Governor Deal joining us along with the leadership from SMI, NASCAR and Hall of Fame inductees Rex White and Bill Elliott on such an important day for Atlanta Motor Speedway,” Clark said. “It goes without saying that we are anticipating a tremendous event weekend with NASCAR night racing making its annual return to Atlanta.”
Although Johnson is locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup by virtue of multiple race victories this season, he said that Atlanta Motor Speedway carries a high amount of importance for teams seeking momentum prior to the Chase. The Oral-B USA 500 is the next to last event before NASCAR’s 10-race playoff begins.
“We’ve won championships without momentum starting the Chase and won with momentum. Having momentum on your side is so helpful,” Johnson said. “The Chase gets so stressful. If you feel like you are digging out in the first race, it’s a long ten weeks.”
Following the festivities at the State Capitol, Johnson was the featured guest at Insights on Leadership networking lunch event hosted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Atlanta Sports Business Council. Johnson heralded NASCAR’s significant impact on the Atlanta business community during a Q&A session.
Johnson wrapped up his day by interacting with fans at Dantanna’s Downtown in the CNN Center. He raced in a 270-degree racing simulator on a depiction of Atlanta Motor Speedway against Kevin Grube and David Clapp of Atlanta, who posted the fastest qualifying laps on the simulator earlier in the day. The first 25 fans to post a time quicker than Johnson’s pre-established time won a free ticket to the Aug. 31 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“That was pretty awesome. I came down here with very little expectations, I was just going to turn a few laps and shake his hand,” Grube said. “The next thing you know, I am sitting in the simulator next to a six-time NASCAR champion.”