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The President invites 12 NASCAR stars to the White House...but Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, and Greg Biffle say no, they're too busy

  President Obama honors NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson at the White House (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   (Updated with driver reaction)

   By Mike Mulhern

   President Barack Obama will host NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and half a dozen stock car racing stars at the White House Wednesday Sept. 7th, and NASCAR CEO Brian France.
   When the President of the United States offers such an invitation, it is such an honor that it is difficult to see anyone turning it down.
   However in what would appear to be a snub to the President, NASCAR officials said Thursday that five NASCAR stars – Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch – said they cannot attend, citing 'schedule conflicts.' There are so far not many specifics on why those are skipping the Presidential invitation.
   Kurt Busch said Friday he would indeed be going to the White House, and said that was his plan all along, just that he had to make some scheduling adjustments first. A NASCAR press release Thursday said he was one of the five drivers who would miss the White House event.
    Kurt Busch called the President's invitation "an honor and a privilege.
   "We'll be there next Wednesday. I mean, who would turn down the opportunity to go to the White House?
    "To me, it's an honor and it's a privilege.
     "I've had the chance to meet (President) Bush and (President) Obama in the past.
     "To be a chase driver and go to the White House…it's an important visit, because I might not make the chase every year, and I'll miss out on those opportunities."

   Johnson, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer will attend the 4 p.m. affair, which is in part to honor them for last year's championship chase, on the eve of the kickoff of this year's chase.

    Kenseth, one of the men with a great shot at winning the championship, says getting the White House 'tour' with the President "is pretty cool.
   "I've been fortunate to be there before, and it's pretty cool…especially the first time I got to go up there. 
    "I think it's the most fun to go as the champion.  In my opinion, it's to honor the champion --so I'm going for Jimmie and NASCAR, to help support him and congratulate him."


   Denny Hamlin shaking hands with President Obama in 2009, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. (L) and Jeff Burton look on (Photo: NASCAR)

  Harvick, one of the four NASCAR drivers skipping the White House invitation, declined to say what he had lined up for next Wednesday instead:
   "I don't think that is anyone's business," Harvick said.
    "It is just one of those things where we have so many things going on that particular week leading up to the chase.
    "It is just a bad week for us to be committed to more than one thing, to go up the day before we have to be in Richmond.
    "This time of year there is just a lot going on. Most everything we do is scheduled months in advance.
    "I have been to the White House before, and it is an honor just to go to the White House and be in the Oval Office, and on the premises at the White House.
   "I understand the honor.
    "Just with everything we have going on right now there is no way possible to reschedule the things that we have going next week."
    Stewart too was not specific about what he had planned that would keep him from shaking hands with the President:
   "If I could have rescheduled, I would have been there in a heartbeat, because I've not missed one yet.
   "I'm very regretful I'm not going to be able to make it. But it's a tough schedule we have.
   "Trust me, if we could be there, we would definitely be there. It's a pretty cool feeling to be with the most powerful man in the world.
   "That's not an invitation you take lightly."
   Stewart says he's been to the White House five times in his career.

   Biffle was not happy over the situation: "I'm disgusted by the comments I see – that people say we 'rejected'…..
    "For one, that's disrespectful, for people not knowing why I can't go.
   "I've got a picture of myself and the President, Barack Obama, on my bookshelf in my office, shaking hands at the White House. I've been there and I've done that, and I respect that.
   "I was very flattered to get the invitation.
    "I got the invitation less than two weeks ago to go…and I've got a function I'm obligated to be at with (sponsor) 3M in Minnesota that they've had planned for basically nine months. It's an annual thing…but they have over 100 of their business people and customers at that, for two days. We arrive Wednesday morning early, and I don't get to Richmond until late Thursday night.
   "I called them and talked about the invitation. And this was very important to them because the function is designed around me, and they really can't have it if I don't go.
   "Does that mean I refuse to go?
   "It's kind of discouraging to see those comments when somebody doesn't know the circumstance.
   "If I hadn't been (to the White House) and hadn't met him (the President) and shook his hand and been in the Oval Office with him before, I might try to chisel my sponsor a little harder to let me go.
    "And I don't want to put it on them; it's simply I have an obligation that I accepted long before this.
   "I would love to go….and it may be the last time I ever get invited.
   "I've been to Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) seven years in a row. Things like this are important to me."


  Kurt Busch and President Bush (Photo: NASCAR)

    Kurt Busch pointed to a hectic few weeks ahead, as part of the championship playoff marketing NASCAR executives have planned: "The week after Richmond is booked solid from NASCAR with the media, where I've got to go to Miami (site of the season finale).
   "Some drivers have to go all the way out to Phoenix (for chase marketing); some drivers have to go up to Loudon, N.H. They (NASCAR executives) want a driver that's in the chase to go to each of the chase markets we're going to (before the chase begins).
    "Then you go to the week after Chicago (the September 18th playoff opener), and we're already scheduled….
   "It's tough – busy schedules for everybody."
    And tensions among many of these drivers are already high, for what's going on out on the track. No wonder there is also testiness over all these media appearances around the country that NASCAR execs have planned for them too.
    At least Ryan Newman could laugh about some of it:
    Newman was asked if drivers in this sport have simply become so jaded that when the President of the United States calls up and issues an invite to the White House it's too easy to respond 'We can't make it this week; maybe next week?'
    "Who said that?" Newman responded.
    His own boss, Tony Stewart.
   "I didn't know," Newman said.
   "We do have schedules and obligations…so there are things that we have predetermined  before you get that phone call."
   So Newman would be willing to say 'no' to the President?
   "Would I be be willing to? I am being very careful with every word that you say in your question, because one word can be misconstrued quite easily," Newman warily replied.
   Then Newman was just asked the general question about his thoughts about why so many NASCAR drivers would just say no.
   "Was it date night, or ice cream night?" Newman replied with a laugh, apparently hoping to dance around the issue.
   "I am asking a question to your question….because I'm more curious as to why they aren't going," Newman went on.
   Newman, for his part, is going to Washington, D.C. next week, but not to the White House (he wasn't one of the men specifically invited), rather to the Pentagon and then Walter Reed, at the invitation of one of his chief sponsors, the U.S. Army.
   "I am going……unless we get a fresh truck of ice cream come through Statesville," Newman said with another laugh.

An event of this magnitude

An event of this magnitude you would think NASCAR would make it mandatory that all the drivers attend. It's a black eye for NASCAR and shows that those drivers not attending have no respect for the office of the President. I doesn't matter what your political views are, he is the elected President of our country and all the drivers should respect that. Carl, Kevin, Tony, Greg and Kurt I will not forget this and a lot of other fans won't either. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Unbelievable that these men

Unbelievable that these men would snub the President of the UNITED STATES. Would they have gone if it were a white man in that office? A Republican? This is just insane!

"Would they have gone if it

"Would they have gone if it were a white man in that office?"
Exactly. They'd have rushed there to 'honor' a Palin or Bachman, but not for a black man. what would their fans have said?

That is really the most

That is really the most stupid thing I've seen in this whole thing. But, I guess it's easy to hide behind a computer screen and accuse people of racism without any actual proof.

Right On: the 'good old boy'

Right On: the 'good old boy' is alive and well...name the black men in nascar?????

Who would be surprised by

Who would be surprised by this? I'm surprised any of them showed up.

WOW that took guts; but I

WOW that took guts; but I respect those that didnt go. If you dont agree with him and his values, then take a stand. WTG to the five drivers!!!

I wouldnt go across the street to see him. I dont care if he is the Emperor of the world.

"Stunning Snub"..LMAO..talk

"Stunning Snub"..LMAO..talk about hyperbole...

Obama is trying to garner

Obama is trying to garner votes with the good ol boys, sad! I have always really liked Jimmie Johnson but going to see Obama and to help him try to score political points is disgusting. I will never buy another thing from Lowe's as Johnson is their spokesman. I think the drivers that refused are to be commended as they are staying out of Obama's last ditch effort to gain support. I hope all Nascar fans avoid Lowe's in an effort to show disapproval of Johnson's actions.

Can't blame the ones not

Can't blame the ones not going...I wouldn't go either.....maybe they just don't want to be honored by this particular President.

Well, maybe so. But, looking

Well, maybe so. But, looking at those big grandstands at Richmond and Dover (and perhaps Chicago should be considered in this too), I'm reminded of what the legendary Bill France Jr. once sternly reminded me: 'Mulhern, just remember we're all in this to sell tickets.'

The BS is how Mulhern and

The BS is how Mulhern and guys like Jeff Gluck, who basically ripped of Mike's article and made it his own, haven't bothered to point out that the drivers that are skipping attended this event LAST year, and also how this thing was a last minute event thrown together by the Whitehouse. The fact that this thing was written with no attempt to show just why the drivers may not have attended proves that it was just thrown out there by these writers to get a cheap pop from the crowd..bravo sir, well done, irresponsible journalism at it's finest. Hell, Carl Edwards was appointed to President Obama's Council on Fitness last year, he's worked with Obama, yet by all means, let's write a quick article just to stir up resentment...

To which Jimmie Johnson

To which Jimmie Johnson himself says this: "IMO... regardless of political views, when POTUS sends an invite and wants to honor you at the White House, you accept. #respect"


EXACTLY RIGHT! Honor the office. Speaking of which, I am tired of people not referring to the POTUS by their last name without "President". It has happened in the past and is still going on. Please, if you agree or disagree with the current office holder some respect for the office!

Edwards, Harvick, Stewart,

Edwards, Harvick, Stewart, Biffle and Kurt Busch are wrong for not going to the White House to visit the President. It shows how phony they all are when they talk about God and American values. This is just straight up bad behavior. My taxpayer money is used to support Stewart? The Army should immediately pull the sponsorship money from Stewart-Haas.

Note: Kurt Busch says he had

Note: Kurt Busch says he had planned all along to go to the White House, just had to work out some details. He says he will be there Wednesday, and called it 'an honor.'

This is absolutely

This is absolutely ridiculous!!...If this was Bush they would've high tailed their tooties to the white house. One day they're going to look back at this and look at the incredible opportunity they were given and wish they hadn't said no. Many people, including me, would love to shake hands with the president of the United states regardless of color and beliefs

Why did they get the invite

Why did they get the invite during the season, when other sports teams get invited during the off season and after the championship has been decided? Is this last year's top 10? If so why did the invite arrive so late? Some of these drivers may have had contractual obligations, which would have prevented them from attending. Don't just assume it is political or racial.

Not sure why the timing, but

Not sure why the timing, but one previous such White House invite came in August. Presumably the President is a busy man too.....
One side point to consider in all this, imho: this event comes just days before NASCAR's Richmond event, only two hours down I-95, and it could certainly be seen as a good marketing plus for NASCAR and that Richmond race, and also for the upcoming NASCAR race weekend at Dover, which is even closer to Washington, D.C. And we can all remember the weak crowd at Dover in the spring; so this sport can use all the positive marketing it can get, which a photo op or whatever with the President of the United States would certainly seem to offer.

Oh, so Biffle is supposed to

Oh, so Biffle is supposed to tell his sponsor, who spends millions to keep him on the track, to go screw themselves so he can go to some political photo op? Give me a break!

There is no way that Jimmie

There is no way that Jimmie Johnson or any other drivers who go to the
White House are in any way helping the President "score points", any more than all of the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Mavericks, SF Giants, Little League World Series Champs, Olympic Champions, etc., etc., etc
did with their presence. This is not a political event. Every President honors these champions every year. It is an American tradition that is greatly treasured by the people given this honor. It shows utmost disrespect for the country, the office of the Presidency, and the people who have earned the honor . I am embarrassed by a so much hate and ignorance being expressed by Nascar fans. I don't believe that it is the majority at all, but it's enough to reflect on a sport that doesn't need any more of that type of reputation.

Now this IS the political part: According to most experts at the time, if the President had not seen that GM and Chrysler were rescued when he did, we very possibly would not have Nascar now. And maybe not even an American auto industry, because if either or both of these companies were allowed to fail, the entire supplier chain would have collapsed. We'd have lost a lot more than Nascar.

Obama issued them a last

Obama issued them a last minute summons...in the same way that he TOLD Congress he wanted to make a joint address to Congress on that very same date.

The man RULES (he does not "govern") by executive decree and thinks everyone should jump and grant him every photo op and publicity opportunity he desires.

He doesn't care about NASCAR. He doesn't care about the values of most NASCAR fans. He is the "Campaigner in Chief" and this is just another campaign event for him.

I applaud those drivers who had backbone enough to tell him, with all due respect, "Thanks, but no thanks...we have prior commitments."

Incredibly enough, the four who said no are my four favorite drivers...and shall remain so!!

Note: Greg Biffle said the

Note: Greg Biffle said the invitation came about two weeks ago.

I believe an "invitation" was

I believe an "invitation" was sent, not a "summons". The last time I checked, all politicians pander to some constituency. Hell, we had the former CEO of Haliburton getting no-bid contracts for his old company during the last administration so their drivers could make 135K driving the same fuel trucks our $35K volunteer army does - No investigations but we spent $265 million on a sexual escapade by the former President. I love my tax dollars going to those poor corporations, don't you? If some driver doesn't want to go see the President, note it and move on. Who cares, they drive race cars, not public policy. If I am expecting good sense or class from NASCAR or their drivers, I am going to be disappointed, at best. Drivers need to suck up to their sponsors just like politicians.

good points (and a good

good points (and a good laugh, thanks). just thinking JimmieJohnson and JeffBurton have it right, it's just about 'respect.' Hey, these guys do meet and greets all around the country. and if this would help sell a few tickets to richmond and the chase tracks, seems like a no-brainer to me.

We gotta laugh. It doesn't

We gotta laugh. It doesn't cost anything to respect others but disrespect gains you nothing and can cost you in the long run.

Thanks for the thread and letting us express our thoughts, or lack of thereof....

You seem really put off by

You seem really put off by this, Mike and you really shouldn't be. We don't worship our leaders in this country. They're men, just like the rest of us. The citizenry doesn't have an obligation to jump when asked by the POTUS. We need to dial back the awe people have of elected officials(all elected officials). He asked and they politely declined. End of story.

sure, i see where you're

sure, i see where you're coming from. my point is we/nascar are trying to sell tickets to richmond and the chase and dover and get tv viewers and present a positive image for the sport....and these 'no's' would seem to indicate to some Americans -- judging from the reaction i've seen from around the country -- are getting a bad perception of this sport from this deal. plus, it's not like anyone is being asked to fly to the moon. seems a pretty straightforward deal. the President invites, and you show up. if he invited the russian president, and the russian president said 'no, sorry, busy,' that would be a story, wouldn't it?

And they say NASCAR's not a

And they say NASCAR's not a redneck sport anymore.

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