Racing champ Stewart becoming a regular in the Oval Office

Updated: January 24, 2006, 4:55 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart has had such a successful racing career that he's becoming a regular at the White House.

Stewart said President Bush recalled his two previous visits to the Oval Office -- one for his first Cup championship and another with other top drivers -- when he came in for a third Tuesday.

"It's a real big honor to be able to come here and have the president remember you," Stewart told reporters as he left the West Wing. "He said, `I'd like to see you back here next year.' So I'm definitely on his side on that. I would love to come back here next year as a champion again."

Stewart's entire team was included in the meeting. Stewart gave Bush a team driving suit, and Bush checked out the car parked outside.

Joe Gibbs, owner of the team and coach of the Washington Redskins, said Bush was joking with all the guys. It got so chummy that one team member gave the president a sporty pat on the rear and told him he is doing a good job, Gibbs said.

"I was talking to Tony, and I said, `Who would believe that eight years ago when I was talking to you on this ramp at this little airport and we were trying to get together racing, we'd wind up at the White House?" Gibbs said. "So, it's a big thrill for all of us."

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Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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