NASCAR WINSTON CUP CHAMPION'S WEEK -- Day 2
Kenseth, others in NASCAR Top 10 meet President Bush, visit Oval Office
NEW YORK (Dec. 2, 2003) -- Tuesday was a Capitol day for newly-crowned NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth, who ended his first-ever visit to Washington D.C. in presidential style.
As guests of President George W. Bush, Kenseth and other drivers in the 2003 NASCAR Top 10 attended an afternoon reception on the South Lawn of the White House. Joined by NASCAR Winston Cup Series executives, team owners and several former NASCAR Winston Cup Series champions, Kenseth and his racing colleagues were treated not only to jovial welcoming remarks from the Chief Executive, but also a personal tour.
"Before today, I never imagined that I would get the chance to meet the president or visit the White House," said Kenseth. "It was a big honor. The president is an ordinary, down-to-earth guy. We chatted a bit. He told some stories and he gave us a tour of the Oval Office."
With show cars displayed nearby, Bush congratulated Kenseth, team owner Jack Roush and crew chief Robbie Reiser. He also recognized NASCAR Vice Chairman Bill France, NASCAR Chairman Brian France, NASCAR President Mike Helton, and NASCAR's Top 10 drivers. Bush especially noted the importance of NASCAR's team concept and drivers' charitable work.
"It's a time of change for NASCAR," Bush said. "It's one of the reasons why the sport is continuing to attract a lot of fans. Yet the values long held by the drivers in this sport endure. It's one of the things I like most about NASCAR. You know the work you do away from the track is really what makes the NASCAR drivers the true champs."
Busch also offered some friendly advice to Brian France, who recently succeeded his father, Bill, as NASCAR chairman.
"You know, there's nothing wrong, Brian, with following in your father's footsteps," said Bush, prompting laughter with the reference to his own father, former President George Bush.
A special twist was the President's guided tour. He took all the NASCAR Top 10 drivers, former NASCAR Winston Cup champions and NASCAR VIPs into the Oval Office, an experience not lost on Kenseth.
Earlier in the day, Kenseth visited several Washington, D.C., landmarks, including Arlington National Cemetery and the eternal flame at former President John F. Kennedy's grave site. Kenseth also received a VIP tour of the Capitol and enjoyed lunch at a venerable Washington favorite -- Old Ebbit's Grill.
"It feels great to be here with my peers -- I think it was the first time the Top 10 had been there -- and have cars on the South Lawn for the first time," Kenseth said. "It's great to see that the sport of NASCAR racing has become big enough to be recognized like this."
Richard Childress, Teresa Earnhardt, Ray Evernham, Chip Ganassi, Rick Hendrick and Felix Sabates were the NASCAR Winston Cup Series team owners in attendance at the White House. Also present were former NASCAR Winston Cup Series champions Dale Jarrett, Ned Jarrett, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace and reigning Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip.
The show cars on the South Lawn included the No. 17 DeWALT Ford, the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet, the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet, the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, the No. 42 Havoline Dodge and the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet.
For the full text of President Bush's remarks, please visit:
* What's on tap tomorrow for the champion ... Wednesday morning, Kenseth will appear on Fox and Friends. He'll follow that by helping kick off a major March of Dimes charity event at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (417 Fifth Avenue between 37th & 38 Streets). Later Kenseth will meet with Northeast media during a luncheon at Manhattan's historic 21 Club. Wednesday night, Kenseth will attend a media dinner hosted by NASCAR Winston Cup Series sponsor R.J. Reynolds at Sardi's Restaurant in the Theatre District.