THE PRESIDENT: Come on up here. A lot of courage, driving those cars. A lot of courage. Good afternoon. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome the 2017 NASCAR Champion, Martin Truex Jr. That is fantastic. (Applause.) And, Sherry, thank you. But I’m going to be mentioning you in a little while, Sherry. Thank you very much. And the entire Furniture Row Racing Team to the White House. Thank you, Furniture Row. (Applause.) Thank you. Great job.
Martin, I have to say, your car looks truly amazing. In fact, I want to get in that thing and just drive it right away. Do you mind? (Laughter.)
TRUEX JR: No. (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: But it is. It’s beautiful. It’s incredible.
I want to thank Secretary Steven Mnuchin — thank you, Steve; Deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan; and the VA nominee Robert Wilkie, who is going to do an incredible job at the VA with our veterans. Thank you. Thank you, Robert, for joining us at today’s event. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize the many great members of Congress here today. We have a lot of them. But I see, in front of us, is Richard Burr — Senator Richard Burr. And, Richard — hi, Richard. You know these people very well from North Carolina, I’ll tell you that. (Applause.)
Jim Risch. Jim. Hi, Jim. Thank you. Great lawyer. Joni Ernst from a very wonderful state. You know the state? Called Iowa. (Laughter.) You don’t win Iowa, you got a problem. Right, Joni? (Laughter.) Got a big problem.
Also Representatives Jim Banks, Andy Barr, Mike Burgess, Rodney Davis, Ron DeSantis. Where’s Ron DeSantis? He’s always helping me on television. He’s so great. Thank you, Ron. Tom Garrett, Paul Gosar, Glenn Grothman, Richard Hudson — Richard, thank you. David Kustoff, Doug LaMalfa, Patrick McHenry. Where’s Patrick? Patrick McHenry. I always say, he’s got the greatest name in politics. The great Patrick McHenry. Thank you, Patrick. Markwayne Mullin, Rob Pittenger, Bill Posey, David Rouzer, John Rutherford. Where’s John? John Rutherford. Thank you, John. Claudia Tenney, Kevin Yoder, and Lee Zeldin. Thank you. Thank you, Lee.
My good friend Brian France is here. He is doing a fantastic job. I’ve had him as my friend for a long time, Martin. You wouldn’t believe that. Right? Different sides, different states, slightly. But we liked each other right from the beginning. Brian. Where’s Brian? Brian, thank you very much for being here. Congratulations, too, on everything that’s happened.
Brian is the Chairman and CEO of NASCAR. And Brian has been with us since the beginning, like so many others who love NASCAR. And he’s been, really, a supporter right from the beginning. He said, “We support Trump.” And so I want to thank you very much, Brian. That was incredible. That meant a lot. Thank you. (Applause.)
Martin, I want to congratulate you — team president Joe Garony. Where’s Joe? Joe Garony. Crew Chief Cole Pearn — Chief, pretty tough job, right? How do you change those tires so fast, Chief, huh? (Laughter.) Are you born with that talent or can you learn it, or sort of both, right? If you don’t have it, forget it. Right? Great job. I watched that. It’s pretty amazing. And all of the crewmembers who brought this team to NASCAR Championship, and what they did was truly incredible. It was an incredible season. Just incredible.
The entire NASCAR field spent 2017 chasing 78. I’ll tell you, they chased him. I’d be watching; they’re always chasing you. You won eight races, including four wins in the NASCAR Playoffs. Throughout the season, you earned 19 top 5 finishes and led more than 2,000 laps. Does it get lonely being in front?
TRUEX JR: No.
THE PRESIDENT: Not at all. Never, right? (Laughter.)
TRUEX JR: It’s great.
THE PRESIDENT: I had a feeling he might say that, folks.
Thanks to incredible speed, lightning fast pit stops, and exceptional driving, this team stood alone among NASCAR’s many contenders.
Despite the 78 team’s success, the 2017 season was not without challenge or heartache. Team owner Barney Visser, who could not be here today, had health issues that kept him away from the track during the last weeks of the season. And Barney is a fantastic guy.
And sadly, crewmember Jim “Wildman” Watson passed away just before the critical race at Kansas Speedway. With your hearts broken over the loss of a teammate, Martin, you and the guys rallied and won the race. They won it for Jim. And today, Jim is up there, right up there. And he’s looking down at you. And he’s very proud. Very proud. So that’s incredible. Incredible story. (Applause.)
I also want to take a moment to recognize the amazing Sherry Pollex. She is the love of Martin’s life. Sherry. Beautiful. Thank you. (Applause.)
As many of you know, Sherry has bravely battled ovarian cancer. She is an incredible woman. And, Sherry, your determination in the face of adversity has been an inspiration to millions of Americans who know what you’re going through.
You have endured extremely tough treatments with grace, and grit, and a tremendous and beautiful smile. You are Sherry strong. We’re praying for you, and we are deeply honored to have you here today. And Martin, I can tell you, is so proud of you. Thank you very much, Sherry. Thank you, (inaudible). (Applause.)
This incredible NASCAR team bonded through tragedy, drew closer together, and willed themselves on to the title. The motto was, “Never give up.” I’ve heard that motto before. That’s a great motto. You don’t lose with that motto.
Never giving up is the story of 78 team. It’s a story that will forever be told in NASCAR and NASCAR’s incredible history with this team.
As many of you know, NASCAR grew from the back roads of America’s South and the bright shores of Daytona Beach — incredible place — to become one of the world’s premier and most beloved sports. I love it. People love that sport.
Built by names like Allison, Earnhardt, Petty, Pearson, Waltrip, this lively sport reflects our national spirit and our can-do attitude. At every NASCAR race, you will see thousands of patriotic Americans, from the grandstands to the pit stalls, proudly waving our flag and roaring with joy at the words, “Start your engines.” (Applause.)
And I will tell you, one thing I know about NASCAR, they do indeed, Brian, stand for the playing of the National Anthem. Right? (Applause.) They do indeed. Somebody said, “Maybe you shouldn’t say that. That will be controversial.” I said, “That’s okay. NASCAR is not going to mind it at all.” Right, fellas? (Laughter.) They don’t mind it at all.
Fast cars, burnt rubber, and great NASCAR champions thrill the American heart and excite the American soul. It’s true. A lot of courage. And so, it is truly fitting that we celebrate NASCAR’s 2017 champions here today at the White House. It’s called the People’s House.
Congratulations again to these great, great champions, and to all of NASCAR on yet another incredible season.
And with that, I am pleased to welcome to the podium the 2017 NASCAR Champion, driver of the number 78, Martin Truex Jr. Congratulations, Martin. That’s really great. Congratulations. Fantastic job.
TRUEX JR: I’m going to keep this short. But what an honor to be here today. Thank you, Mr. President, for having us, for having our whole entire team to represent the sport of NASCAR. My good buddy, Johnny Morris, from Bass Pro Shops, that has been a big part of my career to get me here.
But just really proud to be here today to represent the sport, to represent our millions of fans out there across the world. And I brought you a special gift I’d like to present right now. So this is a replica of the exact helmet I wore, which is a very special helmet to me, with a special paint job, with some special moments from our team, Sherry and I together, and some of the great accomplishments we had together.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s beautiful. Thank you. (Applause.)
TRUEX JR: For you. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Let’s get a picture. Come on, Sherry. Thank you, darling. Thank you.
TRUEX JR: Thank you so much. What an honor.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you everybody. It’s been just a great honor. I’m a big fan. And, Martin, this is beautiful. And maybe if the team and the team members could come up, and we’ll get a big picture up here. The crew, come on up. Come on. Come on up. That’s beautiful. Bass Pro Shops. (Applause.)
That’s great. Thank you everybody. Thank you. Thank you very much. Let’s get a picture.