President Donald Trump congratulated 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. and also thanked NASCAR for its support of him and his policies during a 10-minute ceremony Monday at the White House.
"You [had] 19 top-5 finishes and led more than 2,000 laps. Does it get lonely being in front?" Trump said as he turned to Truex. "Not at all. Never, right? ... Thanks to incredible speed, lightning-fast pit stops and exceptional driving, this team stood alone among NASCAR's many contenders."
Trump said NASCAR chairman Brian France has been his friend "for a long time" and said France has been doing "a fantastic job" running NASCAR.
France's endorsement of Trump in February 2016 was both celebrated and criticized within the NASCAR industry.
"Brian has been with us since the beginning, like so many others who love NASCAR," Trump said. "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."
The president also thanked NASCAR for its patriotism and for the drivers standing during the national anthem. NASCAR has no written policy on whether drivers and crews must stand for the national anthem, but no driver or crew member is known to have demonstrated during its playing.
"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,'" Trump said. "I will tell you, one thing I know about NASCAR, they do indeed, Brian, stand for the playing of the national anthem, right? They do indeed. Somebody said maybe you shouldn't say that, that will be controversial. I said 'That's OK. NASCAR is not going to mind it at all, right, fellas?'"
In congratulating Furniture Row Racing, Trump spoke about how the team overcame heartbreak in winning the race the day after crew member Jim Watson died away from the track at Kansas in October. Trump also spoke about Truex's girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, and her fight against 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," Trump said. "You've endured extremely tough treatments with grace and grit and a tremendous and beautiful smile. You are Sherry strong."
Truex presented Trump with a replica of one of his racing helmets.
"I'm just really proud to be here today to represent the sport, to represent our millions of fans out there across the world," Truex said.