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Obama honors NASCAR drivers at White House

Wed., Sept. 7, 2011, 5:33 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Comparing himself to a race car driver, President Barack Obama honored Jimmie Johnson and seven other NASCAR drivers Wednesday for their performance on and off the track. Johnson has won an unprecedented five consecutive Chase for the Sprint Cup championship titles.

The president also thanked NASCAR for supporting military families.

“NASCAR is a sport where anything that can go wrong will go wrong at some point during the season, similar to being president,” Obama said at a brief White House appearance that was forced indoors because of rain.

“That’s true even for even the best drivers. And with so much extraordinary talent that is going bumper to bumper in every race, just making the chase is hard, let alone winning the whole thing. And that’s why Jimmie is not just one of the best drivers of all times, he’s up there with some of the great sports dynasties,” Obama said, naming the Boston Celtics, New York Yankees and Montreal Canadiens.

Obama also highlighted NASCAR’s support for U.S. troops.

Johnson spent time at the Pentagon on Wednesday, and the drivers served dinner to 400 wounded troops and their families last month during a visit to the now-shuttered Walter Reed military hospital. They also plan to hold a 9/11 anniversary event in Richmond, Va., with military families and first responders before a NASCAR race there this weekend, Obama said.

Four other drivers didn’t come to the White House on Wednesday, sparking speculation that they were making a political statement about Obama’s policies on behalf of a generally conservative sport. But the four — including some who met Obama at the White House during a NASCAR event in 2009 — said the decision was not political. They cited commitments to sponsors and others that couldn’t be rescheduled.


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