President Barack Obama welcomed NASCAR into the White House Wednesday afternoon to honor five-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and seven of his 2010 Chase competitors.
Hailing the drivers for their work both on the track and off, President Obama stood alongside Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth.
Other 2010 Chase drivers Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart said they could not reschedule prior commitments to make the trip. However, the drivers were not the only ones unable to attend Wednesday's ceremonies, as NASCAR CEO Brian France was unable to make the trip due to weather in the area.
Standing in the East Room of the White House, President Obama congratulated Johnson on his five titles and said he was not only one of the best drivers of all time, but "up there with the best sport dynasties" such as the New York Yankees, the Boston Celtics and the Montreal Canadiens.
"Which is not bad for the son of a machine operator and a school bus driver who still has plenty of seasons ahead of him," Obama said.
The president also said he had noticed some "trash-talking" this season, saying that is what makes the sport so exciting to watch.
The five-time champion thanked the president and presented him with a pair of gloves worn during last year's Chase.
As throngs of people clamored to meet Johnson and the other Chase drivers, Kyle Busch reflected on his day at the White House, commenting on how special it was to see American history in person.
"It's an honor and a privilege just to come around, get the tour, see everything and see where our nation was built on," he said. "(It) was certainly fun."
Among the favorites to beat Johnson for this year's title, Busch said the president told him to "keep my speed up" in order to get the job done.
Burton echoed Busch's comments, saying it was an honor to be a part of the history the White House has to offer.
"Every time I come (to the White House), there's a different piece of artwork I don't remember, there's something different I don't remember," he said. "It's kind of an archive of our history in some ways, especially as it relates to our President.
"Everybody knows who Thomas Jefferson is, but people don't necessarily know his wife. You know what I mean? It's just really neat, the history. The view out of here, it's unmistakable where you are. Out of every window you look, there's something that's just an iconic figure of America. It's just a really cool experience."
For Jeff Gordon, the trip was a special moment shared with his family. Accompanied by wife Ingrid and 4-year-old daughter Ella, Gordon reflected on his daughter's reaction.
"To see her light up meeting the president coming to the White House is a great family moment for us," he said. "So, yeah, we're having a good week."
Getting the best of Johnson on Tuesday in Atlanta, Gordon said Obama did not offer any advice on how to beat his teammate, but claimed to be "a pretty good driver."
"He wanted to get behind the wheel," he said. "So we'll have to test that out one day."
– Jeff Gluck contributed to this story