Johnson Arrives In Vegas

Vegas, baby, Vegas … or is it?

Champion’s Week takes place in Las Vegas for the first time, but today NASCAR, championship driver Jimmie Johnson and championship crew chief Chad Knaus, paid a bit of homage to its former home – New York City.

Johnson took part in the traditional Landmark Photo Shoot, hitting a number of recognizable spots along the famed Las Vegas strip. One of those spots was the replica New York City skyline that makes up the New York New York Hotel & Casino.

Johnson and Knaus also took photos outside the Bellagio hotel and the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign at the very end of the strip.

At the sign, which was the champion’s last stop on the photo shoot, Johnson took photos with fans and signed autographs. Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo also joined the champions for the photo.

Johnson’s day didn’t end there. After the photos were taken, he dashed to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where his fellow competitors got a little payback for four years of domination.

The track hosted a Charity Roast of Johnson, with all 12 Chase drivers in attendance – and none held back.

Said Kurt Busch: “I figured out a new Chase format. Every Chase race, we pull out of a hat who gets to have Chad Knaus as their crew chief. Because it’s certainly not your talent that wins you all these championships.”

Said fellow four-time champion Jeff Gordon: “Man, you’ve won four straight championships. I used to be the man. Now you got me on everything. At least my eyebrows are better than yours.”

Said Hendrick Motorsports teammate and 2009 championship runner-up Mark Martin: “Jimmie has gotten a lot better looking. As a kid he was ugly. He was so ugly that he had to trick-or-treat by telephone.”

The at-track activities began early with the Chasers for Charity Fanfest at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Neon Garage. It was a free-admission party for fans, featuring music, food and a Q&A hosted by ESPN’s Jamie Little.

The roast, held in the track’s Blackjack Club, benefitted Speedway Children’s Charities. The event was shown on closed-circuit television in the Neon Garage.

Here are some highlights of Johnson’s remaining schedule leading up to Friday night’s formal awards ceremony at Wynn’s Las Vegas Resort:

Thursday: The annual NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards event will be held from 1-2:45 p.m. PT in the Venetian Showroom at The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. Johnson will be joined by the rest of the top 12 drivers in the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, plus Raybestos Rookie of the Year Joey Logano and other annual award winners. Race fans will get to see Johnson and fellow Chase drivers participate in a Victory Lap parade in their show cars on Las Vegas Boulevard – the city’s legendary “Strip” – beginning at 3:15 p.m. PT at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. “Mr. Las Vegas,” Wayne Newton, will drop the green flag to start the event. The lap includes a pit stop and “burnout” at the Spring Mountain Road intersection before returning to the MGM Grand at 4 p.m. PT. SIRIUS NASCAR Radio will carry live coverage of the Victory Lap. Following the Victory Lap, fans will have the opportunity to have their questions answered by the Chase drivers at the NASCAR After the Lap Presented by Tissot from 4:30-5:30 p.m. PT (doors open at 3 p.m.) at the MGM/Hollywood Theater. The Official Partners of NASCAR now have the ability to utilize Champion’s Week to culminate their fan-centric promotions (i.e. Unilever’s Real Fan of the Year, Ford I Drive One promotion and’s year-long Trivia Challenge). This week, fans will be able to submit their questions via Street Tour, AFLAC Pit Stop and Twitter to their favorite Chase drivers and hear the drivers respond to those questions at this event. SIRIUS NASCAR radio will broadcast the event live and NASCAR.COM will be producing a Video on Demand that will be available on its website afterwards. The Tissot Watch presentation to the top 12 drivers will also take place at this event. That evening, from 7-9 p.m. PT, Johnson and other Chase drivers will join Tony Stewart at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino as he presents the third annual “Stewie Awards,” live on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio. The event, which honors the best, boldest and funniest moments of the 2009 NASCAR season, will take place at the Rio’s Masquerade Village and is open to the public.

Friday: Johnson formally accepts his 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship awards. He, his family and his Hendrick Motorsports team will participate in traditional photos during the afternoon, before attending the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony that evening at Wynn’s Las Vegas. SPEED will televise the event live from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. PT. SIRIUS NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio will also broadcast the ceremony live nationwide.

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