Obama: NASCAR Can Help With American Automakers’ Recovery

By Lindsey Ellerson

Aug 19, 2009 5:39pm

ABC News’ Karen Travers and Vija Udenans report: In an interview with ESPN at the White House, President Obama said it was important for the Big 3 American automakers to remain in NASCAR but said it is “understandable” that they would cut back their sponsorships during tough economic times.  ”It’s about as good advertising as you can get,” Obama said of the auto companies’ NASCAR sponsorship. “If somebody’s excited about NASCAR, that means their excited about cars. We want to make sure people know what great American cars are.” The president was optimistic about the future of the American auto industry and the role NASCAR can play. “Over the long term if you look 5, 10 years out I think they’re going to come back stronger than ever and I think their association with NASCAR makes a great difference,” he said. Mr. Obama revealed his strategy for making his sports predictions and it certainly wasn’t based on calculated research and sports savvy. Instead, the president said, he just waits around long enough to see who looks good. “The key to making good predictions in sports is waiting until the last minute to make the prediction,” Obama said with a laugh. “I’m two-for-two so far, I called the [Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh] Steelers and I called the [NCAA men's basketball champion North Carolina] Tar Heels.” With about a month and a half left in the Major League Baseball season, Obama said he was not yet making any predictions “because I’m holding out hope my White Sox may still have a chance.” Mr. Obama may have sounded like a NASCAR aficionado but he wouldn’t go on the record with his pick to win the Chase championship. “I think it’s a little early,  I gotta see a little more information before making a decision here,” the president said. “But obviously when you have champions like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, just a lot of folks who are capable of winning at any given time. So I’m not going to pretend like I can pick it. But maybe when we get right down there to the end I’ll take the plunge.” This afternoon at the White House, Mr. Obama  honored  Jimmie Johnson, winner of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion  and two previous year championships. Johnson’s stock car, emblazoned with 48 on the side was parked on the South Lawn of the White House today for the ceremony. The president commended the champion and  the gathered NASCAR crowd of drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards there for the ceremony. Obama said it was fitting that they be honored, “NASCAR is a uniquely American sport. Since its humble beginnings, when moonshiners raced on the sands of Daytona Beach during prohibition, it's grown into a sport with tens of millions of fans here in America and around the world.” The president said that NASCAR is more than just racing cars and noted the environmental work that its participants have done and the support they show to American troops and veterans. The unique sports crowd enjoying the salute included the owner Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports, crew chief, Chad Knaus and Richard Petty, The King, along with their wives and families. The president seemed to be enjoying the visit as he teased the champion, “I suggested to Jimmie that in exchange for the free parking, he should let me take the 48 out for a few laps. Jimmie said it was fine, but the Secret Service didn’t think it was fine.” - Karen Travers and Vija Udenans

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