Obama Honors Wounded Warriors With NASCAR Greats
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2009 President Barack Obama paid tribute yesterday to past and present NASCAR champions, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, both of whom drive National Guard-sponsored cars, but not before honoring the wounded warriors attending the ceremony.
Jeff Gordon rolled out a new paint scheme on his car during a NASCAR race at the Michigan International Speedway, June 12, 2009. Sporting black and silver flames, the No. 24 car was emblazoned with the words, “Year of the NCO,” and the National Guard logo. Photo by Nigel Kinrade
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Obama hosted the NASCAR champs at the White House, acknowledging their accomplishments on the track, but also what they give back to the community and the men and women in uniform.
“NASCAR’s about a lot more than just racing cars,” the president told the drivers, who also included Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby and Terry Labonte, Juan Pablo Montoya, Denny Hamlin and Richard Petty. “It’s about supporting our troops and veterans, from flyovers and red, white and blue paint jobs on Memorial Day, to your visits to Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] and Iraq and Afghanistan that show our appreciation for the brave men and women who are serving our country,” Obama said.
The president opened his remarks by acknowledging the wounded warriors from Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center attending the ceremony. “I want everyone to give them a big round of applause,” he told the group. “We are grateful to them.”
Earnhardt, arguably NASCAR’s most popular driver, began racing his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the National Guard last year. He also has driven for the Navy in the Nationwide Series. Gordon entered his partnership with the Guard this season, driving his No. 24 Dupont/National Guard Chevrolet in select events.
The drivers promote National Guard programs and meet with troops and potential recruits during their engagements.
“Both drivers are huge fans of the National Guard and truly appreciate what soldiers do,” Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. John Gipe said of the NASCAR champs.