Being a NASCAR champion sure does have its benefits. For Jimmie Johnson, it earned him a special trip to the White House back in 2009. After winning the 2008 Sprint Cup Series championship, Johnson got to spend some time going over the ins and outs of his race car with former President Barack Obama.
The 44th president's favorite sport has always been basketball, but I'd say that Johnson definitely helped make him a NASCAR fan that day, 13 years ago.
As they first get a look at the car, Johnson goes over some of the safety features that have been implemented over the years. They pop open the hood and talk about the chassis, race engine, and the body paneling that goes into making one of these incredible machines. Obama seemed genuinely interested in the car, and even though Johnson was in his nice suit, he took the opportunity to jump back into the driver's seat, so that he could fire up the race car for the president. Obama's response? "That's an engine there." It was clearly pretty hard for him to resist grinning from ear-to-ear after hearing that incredible engine.
Now, as you might recall, this wouldn't be the only time Johnson made a visit to the White House. A few years later, after winning the 2013 Cup Series title, the seven-time champ was invited back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to be honored for his accomplishment once more by President Obama. The Commander-in-Chief even went as far as calling Jimmie Johnson the "Michael Jordan of NASCAR," which considering Obama's roots, is a pretty high honor.
"Now, everybody knows I'm a Chicago guy," Obama said, "and usually when we do these sports events I make some crack about how the football (team) 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."
Winning a championship is cool and all, but getting to hang out with the president on multiple occasions, well, that's a pretty awesome accomplishment in and of itself. You've got to imagine that Jimmie Johnson will remember both days -- the visit in 2009 and the one in 2013 -- for the rest of his life.
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