Wednesday, April 18, 2012

President Honors Chase Drivers

President Obama and Tony Stewart pose for photographers.
Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Each year, the President of the United States honors the 12 NASCAR Chase drivers of the previous year at the White House. On Tuesday afternoon, Barack Obama took a few minutes of his busy schedule to acknowledge Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart's accomplishment.

"This was Tony's year," Obama said, "and Smoke gave us one of the most dramatic finishes that we've ever seen."

Stewart made the Chase by the skin of his teeth. He started the season in 12th position. He turned that around by winning four races in the post season, and on the final day, won the race to break the tie between him and Carl Edwards.

To mark the occasion, two of Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolets graced the South Lawn of the White House.

The funniest moment of the day came when Obama sought Stewart's advice on dealing with the media.

"I was also hoping he would give me some tips on the media, because he's got that quiet, reserved personality," the president joked, "and I was figuring I'd stay out of trouble if Tony gave me some advice on that."

Though Stewart is the champion President Obama honored, he didn’t forget five-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

"Even though his five-year streak is over, I think we can all acknowledge he is one of the all-time greats," Obama said about Johnson.
Ned Dishman/Getty Images for NASCAR
Nor did he forget Carl Edwards, a member of the Presidential Fitness Council. Obama credited Edwards for his work and paid him a high compliment.

"Carl battled Tony down to the wire and came about as close as you can get without actually winning," Obama said. "... And I think everybody who saw Carl after the race - it was a great lesson in how you handle disappointment with grace and with class."

President Obama didn’t neglect to mention the efforts that NASCAR puts forth for our United States Service men and women.

"One thing especially I want to thank NASCAR for is the support that you guys have provided to our men and women in uniform," Obama said. "You give active-duty soldiers, wounded warriors, veterans all a VIP experience at races."

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 patriotic-painted Chevrolet was displayed on the lawn last weekend for the annual Easter Egg hunt. Earnhardt is sponsored by the National Guard.

All 12 Chase drivers were in attendance for this short-lived experience.

Brad Kesolowski tweeted, "Really cool to meet the POTUS with all of the NASCAR industry. That's one of those stories we'll look back on & b thankful 4 the opportunity."

Although not interviewed by press, Kevin Harvick tweeted pictures of his time at the White House and commented, “Awesome to be a part of the NASCAR trip to the White House got to see some cool stuff inside!"

Quirky jokes were made on Twitter that Harvick, Keselowski and Kyle Busch looked like members of the Secret Service with their shades on.

The president's only regret? Not taking a lap himself in Stewart's No. 14 racecar.

"Every year I try to take a lap; nobody lets me do it," Obama said, drawing laughter from the crowd. "But I am still holding out hope that, at some point, I'm going to be able to get behind the wheel."

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