President Barack Obama was interviewed live during ESPN2's NASCAR Now program originating from the White House in Washington, D.C., today. The President was honoring three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson as well as other current ...
President Barack Obama was interviewed live during ESPN2's NASCAR Now program originating from the White House in Washington, D.C., today. The President was honoring three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson as well as other current NASCAR drivers and some past champions of the sport in a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. Following the ceremony, the President joined NASCAR Now host Nicole Manske and ESPN NASCAR analyst Brad Daugherty for the live interview.
Q - We just saw you honoring Jimmie Johnson and the 2008 Chase for the Championship contenders. Why was this something that NASCAR and the White House decided to do?
President Obama - NASCAR is a quintessential American sport. I think that its fan base is now worldwide, but when you think about its roots, when you think about all the people who have such an attachment to the drivers, and when you think about the fact that right now the U.S. auto industry is going through a tough time, we wanted to make sure we highlight the fact that this is a great sport, is a great brand for not just NASCAR itself but also for America, and we thought it was a great opportunity to celebrate some champions.
Q - Why is it important for the Big Three auto manufacturers to remain committed to NASCAR?
President Obama - I think that it's about as good advertising as you can get. If somebody's excited about NASCAR, that means they're excited about cars. And we want to make sure that people know what great American cars are, and obviously it's understandable at a time when GM has gone through some tough times, that they may need to cut back sponsorships briefly, but over the long term, if we look 5-10 years out, I think they're going to come back stronger than ever, and I think their association with NASCAR makes a great difference.
Q - We know you're excellent at filling out your sports brackets. What about winning the Chase championship? Have you filled out that bracket?
President Obama - Well first of all I think it's a little early. I think I've got to see a little more information before we make a final decision here. But obviously when you've got champions like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, just a lot of folks who are capable of winning at any given time, so I'm not going to pretend like I can pick them, but maybe when we get right there down to the end, I'll go ahead and take the punch.
Q - You're passionate about sports. Jimmie Johnson has won three consecutive championships - who in sports world can you compare this to?
President Obama - In terms of individual sports, you've got some folks like Tiger Woods, and Roger Federer in tennis, who have established dominance in their sport. Jimmie is somebody who obviously, and his whole team, knows what they're doing and knows how to win. They're going to have a lot more wins probably under their belt in the future. He looks like a pretty young guy. I saw him getting in and out of the 48 and I was thinking I would have strained something, broke something. He didn't even tear his suit. That's the least that would have happened to me - I would've had a big rip somewhere.
Q - You were talking earlier about the family atmosphere in NASCAR. Why do you think NASCAR has become such a strong fabric in the American sports culture?
President Obama - I think part of it is what you described - that families can go to the track and they can see these great races and enjoy a good family event that lasts for awhile and it's affordable. But part of it is also the fact that I think racing teams themselves are a family and it's a reminder that the guy behind the wheel is not the only person involved in this thing. That it takes a pit crew, it takes the engineers back at the shop, and all of that contributes to the sense of community that is part of what makes this country strong.
Q - It's a long-standing tradition to have champions at the White House. The 2009 Cup champion - if you had to place a bet, who that would be?
President Obama - The key to making good predictions in sports is waiting until the last minute to make them. I'm two-for-two so far. I called the Steelers; I called the Tar Heels. I haven't yet called the baseball season because I'm holding out hope that my White Sox might still have a chance. So you guys call me up right before the end of the race and I'll let you know who I think is going to come out on top.
Q - When are we going to get you to a race?
President Obama - I would love to do it. I was supposed to do it during the campaign but we just ended up having to travel too much and we weren't able to devote the amount of time that I wanted to. Hopefully sometime during my presidency I'm going to get out there.