While Iraq and the Middle East are falling apart, thousands of illegal immigrants are flooding the southern border of the United States, an American is being held hostage by the Palestinians, and the IRS scandal is exploding, Barack Obama found time to laud six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson at the White House on Wednesday. Team owner Rick Hendrick, crew chief Chad Knaus, and other members of the No. 48 championship team joined Johnson at the annual visit by the Cup champion to the White House.
Targeting a constituency for which he has expressed disdain, those NASCAR folks who “cling to guns or religion,” Obama said, “We’ve got some big NASCAR fans here today, including some members of Congress. And I want to recognize Rick Hendrick, the owner of Hendrick Motorsports; crew chief, Chad Knaus, as well as Brian France and the entire NASCAR community.”
Obama continued, “Now, everybody knows I’m a Chicago guy and usually when we do these sports events I make some crack about how the football is not as good as the ’85 Bears or the basketball team is not as good as the Bulls, but today I can’t really say anything because Jimmie Johnson is pretty much the Michael Jordan of NASCAR.”Obama judiciously omitted baseball, as his claim to be a Chicago White Sox fan was mocked years ago when he couldn’t name a single player on the team and referred to Comiskey Park as Kaminsky Park.
The sports expert went on:
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. And now opposing drivers are saying things like, 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 all across the country who want to be like Jimmie, and why shouldn’t they? He is the only driver to make the Chase all 10 years it has been in existence. He won his Six Pack faster than anybody in NASCAR history. This season, he is chasing his seventh title, which would tie him with Dale Earnhardt and “The King,” Richard Petty, for the most ever. And as Chad once said, he can do things with a race car that most mortals cannot. And Chad should know, because he has been Jimmie’s crew chief for 13 years. And while sometimes the two might sounds like an old married couple — (laughter) — sniping at each other over the radio, Jimmie knows that without Chad and Rick and the entire team at Hendrick Motorsports, he would be just another mortal making left turns. And that’s why Jimmie brought along the over-the-wall guys from his pit crew to share in today’s celebration.
The long-time NASCAR fan residing in the White House added:
I will say, by the way, I love watching the pit crew. I don’t know how you all do it, but it is amazing. And to see the teamwork and athleticism, it’s just remarkable. And that’s the kind of teamwork and leadership that has made Jimmie a champ not only on the racetrack but off it.
Finally, Obama reached the real reasons to honor Johnson: his charity work:
Since 2006, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation has donated almost $7 million toward grants and resources for public schools and charities like Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity. He is running a Wellness Challenge to encourage his fans to get healthy and get in shape, which Michelle is very happy about. He met some of our brave wounded warriors before this event, and obviously is grateful for their sacrifice.
But, of course, there had to be a way to sneak in a War on Women reference for Hillary 2016:
And this spring, Jimmie joined in the Ban Bossy campaign to help encourage leadership among young girls. Jimmie caught some flak, I understand, for doing it but he is the father of two girls, and he understands how important it is for us to lift up our young women and make sure that they know they can do the same stuff that any boy can. So 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.
The peroration consisted of this:
For Jimmie, it also means giving back to his community, being a good husband to his gorgeous wife, Chani, and his daughters, Evie and Lydia, and, of course, dominating the track. And this year he is back at it — he has already got more wins than any other driver, so maybe we should just make it easier on everybody, give the #48 car a permanent White House pass. Don’t take my parking spot. And no burnouts in the Portico. So I just want to say to the entire team, to Hendrick Motorsports, to Chad, to the pit crew, most of all, to Jimmie Johnson, congratulations. Keep up the great work.