President Barack Obama played host to last year's top NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers on Tuesday with an event at the White House honouring the new series champion, Tony Stewart.
Stewart was joined on the White House lawn by Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch. The president of NASCAR, Brian French, also attended.
"This was Tony's year," said Obama in his prepared speech. "Smoke gave us one of the most dramatic finishes we have ever seen. After barely making the Chase, Tony took off, winning an amazing four races in the post-season. Then came the final race in Miami, a must-win. Tony went all out.
"Tony himself acknowledged he didn't see it coming; nobody saw it coming," continued the President. "Tony predicted he wouldn't be able to pull it off.
In fact, he said if he did end up winning the championship - and this is a quote - 'I'll declare I'm a total bumbling idiot.' Here's your chance, Tony!"
Obama also picked out the driver who lost out to Stewart for the championship despite tying in points in that final race.
"I want to make special mention out of this group of Carl Edwards. He's also a member of my Fitness Council. Carl battled Tony down to the wire and came about as close as you can get without actually winning," he said. "I think everybody who saw Carl after the race, it was a great lesson in how you handle disappointment with grace and with class. He's an outstanding representative for NASCAR."
President Obama clearly has a taste for NASCAR, with this being the second time in a little over seven months that he's had NASCAR drivers over for an event. Last September it had been to honour the previous year's champion Jimmie Johnson, and Obama wasn't passing him over for appreciation this year either.
"I do want to acknowledge Jimmie, because even though his five-year streak is over, I think we can all acknowledge he is one of the all-time greats, and I know he is itching to take the title back," said Obama. "A few years ago, Jimmie Johnson showed up, showed me how to start one of these things up, showed me how everything worked. It was impressive!"
It was clear that the chief executive was itching to get into the #14 parked on the White House driveway and make use of some of Johnson's tips. "Every year, I try to take a lap. Nobody lets me do it," he joked. "But I am still holding out hope that at some point, I'm going to be able to get behind the wheel."