Monday, November 30, 2009

Patrick promotes, Johnson takes care of fans

While talk and Tweets of Danica Patrick’s return to the Indy Racing League for another three years, and her deafening silence on her plans for NASCAR, circulated from TVs, PDAs and PCs, Jimmie Johnson was visiting his childhood school in El Cajon to award grants from his foundation to 11 schools in the San Diego area.
Patrick has created quite a buzz with her impending entrance into the stock car arena. She is reportedly close to a deal with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Nationwide Series team, JR Motorsports. The details have yet to surface, but her potential move into NASCAR is already creating a stir.
How well she will perform is anybody’s guess. But if history is any indication, it won’t be an easy transition. The only driver who has been able to make a seamless switch from IRL to NASCAR is Tony Stewart. It took Juan Pablo Montoya three years to become a top 10 driver, a Chase driver. It chewed up and spit out Dario Franchitti. Sam Hornish Jr. is in the way more than he is out front these days.
Patrick will have her struggles in NASCAR, even at the Nationwide Series level. But unlike Hornish, Franchitti and even Montoya, Patrick will draw attention. Even if the curiosity level is to see when she crashes and who she takes out, the interest will be there. Montoya is starting to draw that kind of attention, but it took time to build. Patrick has that already established. She will be a topic of conversation, on TV and in cyberspace, every time she gets in a stock car.
As for Johnson, he is doing some pretty amazing things this week. It must feel like Groundhog Day to him, this being his fourth time making the NASCAR championship rounds. His week started today with a visit to Crest Elementary School in El Cajon, the elementary school he attended.
He will make visits to the Camp Pendleton Marine base and a Lowe’s store in Santee to visit with fans and supporters before heading out to Las Vegas for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series awards banquet this weekend.
He will also mix in visits to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and Las Vegas Motor Speedway before Friday’s award ceremonies at Wynn’s Las Vegas.
It’s a lot of pomp and circumstance, but Johnson is making an effort to give back to his community and his fans. His visit to Crest Elementary will end up doing more good than any NASCAR race Patrick decides to enter.
As much criticism as Johnson has received since taking the lead and winning his fourth Chase in a row, he deserves the same amount of praise for going out of his way to do some good deeds this week.

Photo: Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson holds his Tiffany-made Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup trophy 103 floors and 1,454 feet above Manhattan on Tuesday -- Jimmie Johnson Day -- in New York City. (Photo Credit: Empire State Building)

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