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Johnson raises more than $650,000 for foundation

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SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson raised more than $650,000 for his foundation at his annual golf tournament and dinner auction.

Johnson hosted more than 130 golfers at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California, on Wednesday, a day after he and wife Chani hosted more than 200 guests at the dinner.

The Johnsons use the money raised to fund the Champions Grants program, a partnership between the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and Lowe’s Toolbox for Education. The grants range from $25,000 to $100,000 and are distributed to K-12 public educational programs in the Johnsons’ hometowns in California and Oklahoma, and where they currently reside in North Carolina.

“We had a new venue at Torrey Pines and played their south golf course,” he said. “To have the views and the golf and the scenery, and to know the history of golf on that course and watching some of those awesome battles myself, made that experience all the sweeter.”

The event, which Johnson holds in the San Diego area each year, has raised more than $500,000 annually since its 2007 inception. To date, he has raised more than $4.7 million.

While making his brief trip home before heading north for Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway, Johnson was honored by the El Cajon City Council for his racing accomplishments and philanthropy. The city announced “Jimmie Johnson Day” and the naming of Jimmie Johnson Drive.

“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,” he said. “They gave me a guitar to the city instead of a key to the city. Just a crazy experience and fans were everywhere. I couldn’t believe how many people showed up.”