President Obama honored three-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and other drivers and past champions at a White House ceremony on Wednesday. Obama praised the drivers and called NASCAR "a uniquely American sport."
The following are the president’s remarks from the ceremony.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. Please have a seat. Welcome to the White House.
You know, it is not every day that we have a championship stock car parked out on the South Lawn. At least one that wasn’t stolen and driven here by Joe Biden. (Laughter.) Fortunately, we got Jimmie Johnson to agree not to do any burnouts or tear up my backyard. I also suggested to Jimmie that, in exchange for free parking, he should let me take the 48 out for a few laps. (Laughter.) He said that was fine – but Secret Service didn’t think it was fine. (Laughter.) They were afraid Kyle Busch would wreck me. (Laughter.)
But that’s okay, because I’m just glad Jimmie could be here so we can honor him for winning his third consecutive Sprint Cup Championship. Give him a big round of applause. (Applause.) Jimmie got his start racing in motocross events at the age of 5 and has been racking up trophies and titles for nearly three decades now. He has been so busy racing that, like me, he did not have time to develop what people might call a personality. Can’t say the same for Biden, can we? There’s a guy who’s had plenty of time. (Laughter.)
We want to keep – everyone who keeps the 48 up front – we want to congratulate all of them: owner Rick Hendrick, the crew chief — (applause.) Rick deserves a round of applause. Crew chief Chad Knaus – did I say that right? And all the folks at Hendrick Motorsports, because we all know NASCAR isn’t just about who’s behind the wheel during the race, it’s also about who’s got your back in the pit and everyone back at the shop who preps these cars week after week. It’s also about cartoon gophers. (Booing.)
With these folks at his side, Jimmie is hoping for a fourth series championship in a row this year. But I think there’s another group of guys back here who may have something to say about that – Jeff, good luck in your "drive for five." Tony, please put down the sandwich. (Polite applause.) And good luck to all the other Chase drivers joining us today, even Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is having exactly the same season as my health care reform initiative. (Laughter.)
We’re joined today by one of NASCAR’s all-time greats, "The King," Richard Petty. Sitting right here. (Applause.) With a family tradition that’s generations strong, the Pettys are about as close as you can get to a NASCAR dynasty.
Also, we’re joined by the most diverse group of NASCAR drivers in the sport’s history. Representing Latinos, Asians, blacks, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans is Juan Pablo Montoya. (Applause.)
Finally, I want to recognize Mike Helton, NASCAR’s president, for his dedicated leadership and steadfast mustache, and, of course, Brian France, NASCAR’s chairman, and his wonderful wife, Amy, who’ve done so much for the sport. Please give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)
You know, it’s fitting that you’ve all come here to the White House – the American people’s house – because NASCAR is a uniquely American sport. Since its humble beginnings, when moonshiners raced on the sands of Daytona Beach during prohibition, and Bo and Luke Duke went on the run from Boss Hogg in Hazzard County, it’s grown into a sport with tens of millions of fans here in America and around the world.
But NASCAR is about a lot more than just racing cars. It’s as much about what you give back off the track as you give on the track. It’s also about product placement during interviews and sponsor mentions on television, and a sanctioning body that makes up the rules as it goes along, and phantom cautions when Junior needs a lucky dog and Darrell Waltrip never shutting up.
After all, one of the core values of the NASCAR community is the belief that service isn’t just something you do once in a while when it’s convenient – it’s a way of life. I think Jeff Gordon put it best when he said, simply, "Any person out there should do something some way to give back to their Pepsi community."
So today, I want to thank all of you for that and for everything you do to make this country a better country. And I wish you all the best of luck in this year’s Chase. God bless all of you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
(Quietly) Don’t be alarmed, Jimmie, but I think Biden is stealing your car.
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