SAN DIEGO — President Barack Obama called El Cajon native Jimmie Johnson the “Michael Jordan of NASCAR” during a ceremony Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Obama said when he hosts champion athletes to the White House, he finds a way to compare them to players and teams in his hometown of Chicago, and usually not favorably.
“Today I can’t really say anything because Jimmie Johnson is pretty much the Michael Jordan of NASCAR,” Obama said. “Like Mike, Jimmie has won six championships in eight years. He won a few titles, took a two-year break, decided, you know what, it’s not that interesting, and then got back to winning again.”
Opposing drivers are left lamenting that “unfortunately, we’re driving during the Jimmie Johnson era,” Obama said. “So these days, we’ve got a lot of kids all across the country who want to be like Jimmie, and why shouldn’t they?”
The White House event comes eight days after Johnson was feted in his hometown, receiving a key to the city and a custom Taylor guitar decorated with a large 48 — the number of his car.
The local celebration for Johnson was in recognition of his racing accomplishments and philanthropy in support of education.
The following day, he held a golf tournament at Torrey Pines to raise funds for a partnership between his foundation and the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education foundation.
Obama listed Johnson’s various charitable deeds and told him to “keep at it, do what you think is right.”
Johnson, who last year won his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, did not make any comments during the White House ceremony that lasted about five minutes. He was accompanied by members of his Hendrick Motorsports team, who joined him and Obama on the stage for photographs with the Sprint Cup trophy.