News & Media

President to honor Johnson, 2010 Chase drivers

September 02, 2011, Mark Aumann,

Scheduling conflicts to prevent some from attending invitation to White House

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Several drivers have expressed regrets that they can't accept an invitation to spend an afternoon at the White House on Wednesday with President Barack Obama. But it has less to do with red states and blue states than it does with appointment calendars.

The White House will honor champion Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the 2010 Chase finalists, but Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards have scheduling conflicts.

President Obama congratulates Cup champion Jimmie Johnson in a previous White House visit. (Getty)

Before anyone thinks it's a political statement or a conspiracy theory, Stewart wanted to lay all the rumors to rest. He's been to the White House on five previous occasions.

"Trust me, if we could be there, we'd definitely be there," Stewart said. "I've always viewed it as an honor to have the invitation to go. I believe every trip we've gone there, we've learned more and more about it. And it's a pretty cool feeling to be with the most powerful man in the world."

"That's not an invitation that we take lightly."

Harvick said previous commitments will cause him to miss the trip to Washington.

"I have been to the White House before," Harvick said. "It is an honor just to go to the White House and be in the Oval Office and on the premises.

"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."

That's a similar issue for Biffle, who said his conflict has to do with a sponsor function.

"I'm very flattered for the invitation and I would love to go," Biffle said. "I would take advantage of that. I've been to Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] for seven years in a row; things like this are important to me. I simply have an obligation."

NASCAR chairman and chief executive officer Brian France also will attend Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET presidential meet and greet, along with Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch.

The White House says Obama plans to recognize NASCAR for giving back to the community, continuing his tradition of lauding athletes and sports teams for their efforts both on and off the field.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.