Obama Hails NASCAR Champ ‘Smoke’ Tony Stewart

Apr 17, 2012 7:13pm
ap obama nascar2 thg 120417 wblog Obama Hails NASCAR Champ Smoke Tony Stewart

President Obama with NASCAR champion Tony Stewart. (Image credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

There were no checkered flags or revving race car engines, but for an hour this afternoon the White House south drive resembled part of a NASCAR race track.

Flanked by the top 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers of 2011 and two Chevy Impalas, each emblazoned with the number 14, President Obama gave a pat-on-the-back to champion driver Tony Stewart for what he called an “impressive win.”

“This was Tony’s year. And ‘Smoke’ gave us one of the most dramatic finishes that we have ever seen,” Obama said.  Stewart drives No. 14.

“After barely making the [Sprint] Chase, Tony took off, winning an amazing four races in the post-season.  And then came the final race in Miami — a must-win. Tony went all out,” he said. “Twice he came from back of the pack, passing 118 cars — sometimes three wide.  Tony said it felt like he passed half the state of Florida.  But in the end, he hung on to take the checkered flag and win the championship with a tie-breaker.”

Obama joked that he also had an ulterior motive in inviting the soft-spoken Stewart to the White House:  to glean some “tips on the media.”

“He’s got that quiet, reserved personality and I was figuring I’d stay out of trouble if Tony gave me some advice on that,” Obama said with a smile.

The president praised all the drivers at his side — calling them the “best of the best” — and thanking them for their outreach to military veterans and their families as part of a NASCAR initiative.

“Underneath the helmets, behind all the trash talking — and I notice it seems to be picking up quite a bit lately — these are some outstanding men.  And it’s true about the whole NASCAR organization.”

Besides Stewart, Obama was joined by drivers Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch.

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