President Obama Honors Johnson

Jimmie Johnson

President Barack Obama joins in celebrating Jimmie Johnson's 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup title with his team and car owner Rick Hendrick on Wednesday at the White House. (Photo: Hendrick Motorsports)

Saying that maybe Jimmie Johnson’s car should have a permanent parking pass at the White House, President Barack Obama honored Johnson and his team Wednesday for their 2013 Sprint Cup championship.       

Johnson has been a regular visitor to the White House with his championship success.

Noting that Johnson has more wins than any other driver in the Cup series this season, President Obama said: “Maybe we should just make it easier on everybody, give the No. 48 car a permanent White House pass.’’

He then told Johnson: “Don’t take my parking spot, and no burnouts in the portico.’’

President Obama also put Johnson’s championships into perspective.

“Everybody knows that I’m a Chicago guy,’’ President Obama said. “Usually when we do these sports events, I make some crack about how the football team is not as good as the ’85 Bears, the basketball team is not as good as the (Chicago) Bulls, but today I can’t really say anything because Jimmie Johnson is pretty much the Michael Jordan of NASCAR. Like Mike, Jimmie has won six championships in eight years. He won a few titles, took a two-year break, decided, you know what, it’s not that interesting and then got back to winning again.

“Now drivers are saying, ‘Unfortunately, we’re driving during the Jimmie Johnson era. He’s the best there ever was.’ So these days we’ve got a lot of kids across the country who want to be like Jimmie and why shouldn’t they?’’

President Obama not only detailed Johnson’s athletic accomplishments but also what Johnson has done off the track, noting that the Jimmie Johnson Foundation has donated nearly $7 million since 2006 to various schools and charities and that Johnson also created a wellness challenge and joined the Ban Bossy campaign to help encourage leadership among young girls.

President Obama noted that Johnson took “some flack” for joining the Ban Bossy campaign but then told Johnson: “As somebody who is accustomed to being criticized once in a while, I just want to give you some advice, keep at it. Do what you think is right, and you’re right on this one.’’

President Obama’s remarks lasted just about four-and-a-half minutes. After they ended, Johnson, car owner Rick Hendrick, crew chief Chad Knaus and the pit crew joined President Obama for a photo with the championship trophy.

Earlier in the day, Johnson, members of his team, NASCAR Chairman Brian France and Lesa Kennedy France, chief executive officer of International Speedway Corp., met Rep. John Boehner, speaker of the House. Johnson also met with Wounded Warriors in the White House. 

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