Jimmie Johnson will collect an armful of awards later this week when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion's Week draws to a close, but the Hendrick Motorsports driver started the run up to the Las Vegas awards by handing out prizes of his own.

On Monday, as Champion's Week began in the 2009 champion's hometown of El Cajon, California, it was Johnson and his wife, Chandra, handing out the awards - nearly $1 million in grants divided among schools in California, North Carolina and Oklahoma.

The donations from the Jimmie Johnson Foundation/Lowe's Toolbox for Education in the amount of $922,000 were made public during ceremonies at Jimmie Johnson's former elementary school, Crest Elementary, in El Cajon.

Related Articles

In all, 26 schools - eleven in the San Diego area - received grants from the foundation from the 80 institutions applying for awards in science and technology, accelerated reading, outdoor classrooms and athletic facilities and other programme.

"This is what the foundation is all about, being able to give back to communities in need," said Johnson, the first driver to win four consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup titles.

The assembly was the first of three events the champion attended Monday in the Golden State. He also journeyed a few miles north to the US Marine Corps Camp Pendleton, where he interacted with service personnel and their families and enjoyed a concert by the rock band Saving Abel.

"I'm so proud of our sport and the way we support the men and women that support our country," said Johnson. "Anything we can do to give back to our armed service men and women and thank them for what they do; I'm all for it."