WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama honored NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski at the White House on Tuesday for winning the 2012 Sprint Cup Championship for the first time and for his work with wounded veterans.
Keselowski, a 29-year-old from Michigan, beat out five-time Sprint Cup winner Jimmie Johnson last November to take home the title. It was the first Sprint Cup Championship win for team-owner Roger Penske and Penske Racing.
Obama underlined the importance of the team mentality that Keselowski maintains, quoting the driver’s post-race interview.
“Mostly it was a celebration of the fans that helped make his victory possible,” Obama said. “And Brad said on that day, ‘life is a team sport and I have the best team. My family, my friends, my fans, my coworkers, without them I am nothing.’”
Keselowski grew up in a racing family and worked for the family-owned race team before getting behind the wheel. He joined the Penske team in 2010 and won the NASCAR Nationwide Series that same year.
Obama praised Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite team for their successes and teamwork.
“Brad is a heck of a driver, but he and every other driver rely on a whole team of people to keep everything running right because if one thing goes wrong – a small pit stop, a missing lug nut, a flat tire – if one person is not doing his part that can cost them the race,” he said.
Obama also recognized Paul Wolfe, Keselowski’s crew chief, who “is admired and well-known around the NASCAR world.”
The president’s honor wasn’t solely for Keselowski’s driving championship, but for his Checkered Flag Foundation as well.
The foundation was started in 2010 and supports wounded veterans, first responders, and military members through grants and special events. Each year, Keselowski hosts its Race to Recovery program which recognizes wounded service members and allows them to enjoy a “VIP NASCAR race experience,” according to the website.
“Those brave warriors get to head down to the track for a VIP experience and a chance to ride shotgun with Brad,” Obama said. “Because for Brad, our veterans are an important part of his team and I’m going to quote him: ‘I couldn’t do what I do on the race track without these men and women making the sacrifices that they do for me.’”
Before the president delivered his remarks on Keselowski, he addressed the subdued nature of the event in light of the Boston Marathon bombing. “I know the entire NASCAR family shares with me just an incredible sense of loss. We mourn the victims. We pray for their loved ones,” Obama said. “We’re going to uncover whoever was responsible for yesterday’s cowardly act and find out why they did it and they will be brought to justice.”
After the president’s remarks, he and Keselowski checked out the Miller Lite Ford Fusion racing car, which was parked on the White House driveway.
Obama said, “Brad offered to let me drive it around the South Lawn, but Secret Service once again said no.”