Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Would you like to help get a street named for Jimmie Johnson?

Dear Friends of Jimmie Johnson:

As you may have heard, an effort is underway to rename a portion of Johnson Avenue in El Cajon to Jimmie Johnson Avenue .

This location was chosen due to the obvious ease of its logistics, minimizing impacts to the community, business and public safety agencies.

After months of hard work with the El Cajon City Council, the Mayor and Council recognized the need to honor Jimmie and drafted Resolution No. 10604, recommending the approval of the name change.

On January 26, 2010, the City Council directed the Planning Commission to hold a public hearing to consider the name change, in honor of Jimmie Johnson. Unfortunately, at their meeting on February 22, 2010, the Commission tabled any decision until their meeting on Monday, March 22, at 7:00 pm., due to the overwhelming OPPOSITION to this change from the business owners, El Cajon Historical Society and descendants of the late Dr. Johnson, whom the street is originally named after. Since the word hadn’t been sent out to the community there was very little in attendance showing their support FOR this change.

This is where we need your help. Jimmie Johnson’s fans know that his contributions to El Cajon and East County , and his on and off track achievements, are vast; however, his home-city has done nothing up until now to acknowledge this. We believe a street in his name is the best way to show our appreciation for all he has done for the children and community. In fact, we’re not even asking for the whole street to be named after him – only a portion, which would be shared between Jimmie Johnson and the late Dr. Johnson. The City Council is in agreement on this and believes it’s the best compromise for all; it just makes the most sense. And, right now we just have this one hurdle to overcome (Planning Commission meeting on 3/22) before this becomes a reality.

What we ask of all San Diego Jimmie fans are two things:

1) That you please show up to the El Cajon Planning Commission meeting scheduled for:
Monday, March 22, at 7:00 pm, at
Council Chamber
200 Civic Center Way
El Cajon, CA 92020
…and wear your Jimmie stuff to show your support, and

2) That you please show your support for “ Jimmie Johnson Avenue ” in writing to write to:
Anthony Sottile, Chairman – City of El Cajon Planning Commission
200 Civic Center Way, El Cajon , CA 92020
with cc: to Melissa Ayres – Community Development mayres@ci.el-cajon.ca.us
Support letters need to be sent by March 17th. They’re requesting hard copy letters to make it official; however, you might be able to email either of them through their website.

It should be pointed out that the people spearheading this effort are not family members of Jimmie and are in no way affiliated with him, Lowe’s, his foundation, NASCAR, etc. This was all just started by one fan who believes in Jimmie as a model citizen, and the number of fans supporting that person are growing daily. In many ways Jimmie is a one-man ambassador of El Cajon . He has been recognized throughout the country for his stellar, record-breaking racing accomplishments, but the fact is El Cajon could easily honor him on his off-track merits alone.

Off-Track Charity and Efforts

Since the inception of the Jimmie Johnson Foundation in 2006, which is dedicated to assisting children, families & communities in need, Jimmie and his wife Chandra have raised more than three million dollars through golf tournaments, e-Bay Giving Works, and donors from nearly every state in the nation. The following is a sample of the organizations that have benefitted from Jimmie Johnson Foundation:

- A bowling alley built for The Victory Junction Gang (a camp for children with chronic and life threatening illnesses).

- The Make a Wish Foundation (Since 2005, Jimmie and Chandra have been on the National Advisory Council). Jimmie grants numerous wishes at the race track each year.

- The Hendrick Marrow Program and Drive– This drive helps to meet the increasing demands for blood and marrow donors in this country.

- The Helmet of Hope - allows fans and media to nominate their charity of choice to be featured on Jimmie's helmet.

- And closer to home, Habitat for Humanity in El Cajon . As the foundation indicates, what better project than to build a home, and hope, for a family in need.

Another example of his local off-track gestures occurred during the California wildfires in 2007. Jimmie stated that he remembers, as a kid growing up in El Cajon , his family being evacuated due to fires. With this memory, Jimmie and his car owner Rick Hendrick, (and sponsor - Lowes), donated all winnings from a race in Atlanta Motor Speedway to the American Red Cross relief effort. Jimmie also had a special 1-800-RED CROSS decal on his car for fans to call for information, or donate to the Red Cross' wildfire relief efforts. Jimmie stated, "Every cent is going to help; every cent is going to matter." The money that was generated that weekend alone by Jimmie's thoughtfulness benefited thousands of residents burdened by the fires, and amounted to close to a million dollars.

Jimmie's generosity to his hometown continues with the “Lowe's Toolbox for Education”. Jimmie stated that, "My parents made me keep my grades up or I wasn't allowed to race. I think it's important to make sure we give teachers and students the best tools possible and hopefully, these grants will help." Listed below are only the local grants that were awarded by the Jimmie Johnson Foundation in 2009; he also awarded numerous grants in North Carolina , (where he currently resides), and Oklahoma , (his wife's Chandra's hometown).

Chase Avenue Elementary- $19,500 Purchase a bilingual translation system to enable communication in multiple languages

Crawford High School- $32,495 Explore the use of alternative fuels with National Automotive Technical Education program

Emerald Middle School- $100,000 Create a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Lab

Johnson Elementary- $20,714 Create a health and wellness program to learn about healthy eating and exercise

Magnolia Elementary- $27,915 Purchase student responders for interactive teaching

Multimedia & Visual Arts School- $87,000 Create a high tech art fabrication lab that will allow students to design high-tech community-based projects

Point Loma High School- $90,000 Construct a weight room and exercise facility

Rios Elementary- $13,600 Purchase an online accelerated reading program
And, Jimmie’s alma maters:
Crest Elementary- $45,898 Create hands on activities in Science, Technology, Health/Fitness and the arts, including after school programs
Greenfield Middle School- $31,572 Provide safe lunch area equipment for students
Granite Hills High School- $31,155 Assist with stadium renovations

On-Track Achievements and Honors

As far as on-track accomplishments go, each week, especially during racing season, his hometown of El Cajon is mentioned numerous times, during driver introductions, on the track marquee and printed in race programs. El Cajon , California is in lights in front of over 100,000 race fans on a weekly basis, not to mention on national television. During interviews, he fondly discusses his childhood memories as his father Gary, who drove a truck around East County for an auto parts store, and Jimmie’s mother, Cathy, who drove a school bus in El Cajon . His stories of racing dirt bikes, and growing up in El Cajon are numerous. (The City of El Cajon couldn’t pay for better publicity).

To put his on-track accomplishments in perspective, in the entire history of NASCAR, Jimmie stands alone with an accomplishment no driver has ever attained – four straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships. As his owner/friend and NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon stated, “I never thought I would ever see what Jimmie has accomplished in my lifetime. I simply didn’t think it was possible.” There’s no doubt that when Jimmie retires, he will have a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte , North Carolina .

Although there are many on-track accomplishments, (too many to list today), in 2009 alone:

§ Jimmie Johnson became the first driver to earn Associated Press Athlete of the Year honors.(Just FYI - The AP has been selecting an athlete of the year for 78 years, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, A.J. Foyt, or Mario Andretti never won this honor).

§ On August 16, 2009, The Auto Club Speedway inducted Jimmie Johnson in the Auto Club Speedway Walk of Fame. (Only 11 other drivers have received this honor).

§ On December 22, 2009, Jimmie was voted as the Al Holbert Memorial National Driver of the Year. This award is voted by members who are journalists, photographers, and broadcasters who cover all motorsports on a regular basis.

§ On August 19, 2009, Jimmie’s #48 Chevy was parked just outside the South Portico of the White House. Jimmie was honored by the President of the United States as the reigning NASCAR Champion.

After Jimmie won his 4th Championship, honors throughout the country were bestowed upon him. In New York , the Mayor lit the Empire State Building in Jimmie's team colors of blue and gold. Las Vegas hosted the Championship Week and Banquet. The neighboring city of Santee hosted a winner's party. The only thing missing was an honor from his hometown of El Cajon .

Time for Hometown Recognition

Since everyone has taken the opportunity to honor Jimmie, it is now time for him to receive acknowledgment from his hometown. Our request for one street name change -- from Johnson Avenue , to " Jimmie Johnson Avenue ." This would be a fitting tribute for Jimmie's accomplishments both off and on the track.

The Historical Society can make the argument that history should be protected (e.g. do not change the name of the street); however, Jimmie is literally making history on his own while bringing respect and notoriety to El Cajon.

Some may argue they don’t want to risk Jimmie having a “Tiger Woods” scandal, and that streets should be named after people only after they’re deceased. Our take is that Jimmie is at the height of his career and deserves this while he’s alive. It’s absolutely ridiculous to look for any similarities between him and Tiger Woods. Interestingly enough, in February of 2008 the city of Columbia , Missouri , renamed a section of Route WW “Carl Edwards Drive”. While an accomplished driver, Carl has a long way to go before he can be compared to Jimmie. There is no better time.

Jimmie strives to be the best "on the track," and is a true humanitarian "off the track." He is a person who continues to remember his hometown, and truly brings honor to El Cajon . It is now time that El Cajon recognize Jimmie Johnson and bestow upon him a tribute worthy of his accomplishments. This would be lasting tribute to Jimmie Johnson from both the citizens and the City of El Cajon .

If this gets approved, the plan is to hold the dedication ceremony the week before the fall California race and have Jimmie become the first person to drive on the newly named “ Jimmie Johnson Avenue ”.

Thank you for supporting El Cajon ’s favorite son and we hope to see you on the 22nd.

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