President Obama honors Kevin Harvick on 2014 championship

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President Barack Obama honored Kevin Harvick for his 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship Tuesday in a ceremony at the White House.

“It is always wonderful to have the NASCAR family here,” Obama said. “We’ve got huge fans in the White House and we’ve got some big fans, including some members of Congress, who are here.”

Among those in attendance were NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and NASCAR President Mike Helton.

Here’s a major portion of Obama’s speech:

“We’re here to celebrate Kevin Harvick,” Obama said. “This was an exciting year for the 4 car. As the (2014) season started, Kevin had a new team, a new crew chief to adjust to. It usually takes a little time for a driver and crew chief to find a groove, but Kevin and Rodney seemed to figure out each other in a hurry – sorta like when (U.S. Vice President) Joe Biden joined my team.

“They had instant chemistry. And as Kevin can tell you, when you have a trusted partner shouting world-class advice into your ear at every turn, you can’t lose.

“It wasn’t long before Kevin and Rodney and the team behind the Budweiser Chevy were firing on all cylinders. But, the season was not without its ups and downs.

“By the second race of the season, Kevin had picked up his first checkered flag with Stewart-Haas. And then came a tough stretch, the kind where most championship seasons are forged.

“There were blown tires, engine failures, cut oil lines and a slew of obstacles that held the 4 car from finishing any higher than 36th in three out of four straight races.

“But Kevin and Rodney stuck with it, and by the time the Chase rolled around, this team was ready. A win at Homestead capped a season where Kevin picked up five wins, led more laps than anybody on the grid, and picking up his first Sprint Cup championship.

“And by the looks of it, with two quick wins and the points lead already in place, 2015 isn’t shaping up to be too much different.”

In conclusion, Obama also praised Harvick’s wife DeLana and the couple’s charitable endeavors, including the Kevin Harvick Foundation.

“Kevin, congratulations to you again on an outstanding season,” Obama said. “(To) the whole team at Stewart-Haas Racing, keep up the great work.

“And to NASCAR, I’m looking forward to more excitement on the track. Thank you so much.”

Obama interjected some levity at times.

When he tried to pronounce the last name of Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas Racing vice president of competition, the President briefly stumbled but got it right.

“Almost messed it up there,” he joked. “It’s like Obama, too many vowels.”

Before he celebrated Harvick’s achievements, Obama took a moment to remember Fox Sports broadcaster Steve Byrnes, who passed away earlier in the day after a long bout with cancer.

“I also want to offer my condolences to everybody in the NASCAR community on the passing of a legendary reporter and broadcaster, Steve Byrnes. I know a lot of fans’ thoughts and prayers today are with his wife Karen and son Bryson.”

The whole ceremony, including some post-speech chit-chat between Obama, Harvick, Childers and Stewart, lasted just over six minutes.

“Tell your son I said ‘hi’ and I expect to meet him the next time you come by,” Obama said to Kevin Harvick about son Keelan, who did not attend the ceremony.

The elder Harvick replied, “I hope he gets another opportunity. I appreciate it.”

Jeff Gordon and his family visited Obama over the Easter holiday and the President suggested Harvick and his family should do so in the future.

“Bring him to the Easter Egg roll,” Obama said. “That was a lot of fun. It was a good time.”

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