In what has become an annual tradition of recognizing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions, President Barack Obama honored 2014 title-winner Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team at the White House Tuesday afternoon.
Accompanied at the podium in front of the White House by Harvick, crew chief Rodney Childers and SHR owner Tony Stewart, Obama began his speech by congratulating Harvick and offering his condolences to the NASCAR community on the passing of FOX Sports broadcaster Steve Byrnes.
Obama discussed Harvick progressing to championship form while getting used to his new team and crew chief last season.
“It usually takes a little bit of time for a crew chief and driver to find their groove, but Kevin and Rodney seemed to figure out each other in a hurry,” Obama said. “Sort of like when Joe Biden joined my team.
“So they had instant chemistry. And as Kevin can tell you, when you have a trusted partner shouting world-class advice into your ear at every turn, you can’t lose.”
Harvick had previously attended the White House in 2012 as a member of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but this was his first visit as the guest of honor – and NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.
“To come up and be honored as the championship team was really special,” Harvick said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be at the White House before. I think the best part for me was to see the team guys come up and be at the White House and tour the Capitol and do all the things that we got to do.
“It’s strange to be able to walk through those doors with the President of the United States as he’s about to walk out and give a speech on you. … Walking out with him is something that I’ll never forget.”
Per custom when a NASCAR champion visits the capitol, Obama praised Harvick’s efforts with his Kevin Harvick Foundation, which aims to motivate underprivileged youth to excel as students and as athletes.
At the end of the celebration, the president told Harvick to tell his two-year-old son Keelan he said hi, and invited the Harvicks to his annual Easter Egg Roll next year.
No White House championship ceremony ends without the president offering some humor. He followed up his “A certain team up north” joke referring to Michigan when honoring Ohio State Football Monday with this quip during Harvick’s visit:
“I know at one point DeLana (Harvick’s wife) even had her own firesuit. I’m sure it looked better than it did on Kevin,” Obama said. “And I’m sure if Michelle and I ever decided to wear matching outfits, it would be me who adapted to her style.”
Image: Mark Wilson/Getty Images via NASCAR