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Jimmie Johnson hosts Champions Luncheon in Boston, recognizes Boston Marathon survivors

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff  June 27, 2013 09:20 PM

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Jimmie Johnson, the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion who currently sits atop the driver standings, made a Boston whistletop Thursday and hosted a Champions Luncheon at the Cask 'n Flagon near Fenway Park. Johnson will drive in the July 14 Lennox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The NASCAR champion was joined by sports legends from other Boston championship teams, including: the Celtics' JoJo White, the Bruins' Johnny Bucyk, the Patriots' Joe Andruzzi, and Tim Wakefield from the Boston Red Sox.

They engaged in a panel discussion, moderated by ESPN announcer Allen Bestwick, about the common traits of a championship team.

''It's about the people," said Johnson. "We are all only as good as our weakest link. We are a team and no one person is successful alone."

But the real champions were those Boston Marathon survivors who attended the luncheon, including MBTA Transit police officer Richard Donohue, who was seriously wounded in the Watertown shootout with the marathon bombing suspects.

"The marathon bombings actually hit pretty close to home for me,'' said Donohue. "My great, great grandfather, Larry Brignolia, who was a blacksmith, won the 1899 Boston Marathon at a whopping 173 pounds. That record still stands today.

"I weighed about 173 pounds when the Marathon kicked off and I weigh about 150-149 now,'' Donohue said. "This was my third year as a Transit police officer working the Marathon and itíll probably be my last. During the pursuit of the bombers, I was hit by a bullet in my right leg and there it remains today.''

Donohue said he had never suffered so much as a broken bone before, let alone a gunshot wound. ''The recovery process was one I wasn't too familiar with,'' said Donohue, whose protracted recovery has been slowed by nerve damage to his foot.

"There were some folks who had similar physical injuries and the Boston hospitals provided all of us with top-notch care,'' he said "Myself, I went to Mount Auburn and then I went to Spaulding [Rehabilitation Hospital] and without them I wouldnít be here today, as well as the first responders who were on the scene and jumped into action.

"All of us who survived, we have months, if not years to recover and some of us might never do so,'' Donohue said. "I have some severe nerve damage to my left foot and thatís why Iím on crutches today. I may never return to the job I love, protecting the city I love, but I am optimistic I will do so.''

Jerry Gappens, NHMS executive vice president and general manager, announced at the luncheon that the track had joined forces with its corporate partners to provide 2,000 tickets to first responders from all over the New England region to attend the July 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Loudon, N.H.

"Our champion first responders always go the extra mile without giving a second thought to what might happen to them," Gappens said. "Our race this summer is the 301, going the extra mile in honor of our heroes."

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