Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Complete text of President Obama's remarks honoring NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick

Remarks made by President Barack Obama honoring reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick and his team

   THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  Please have a seat.  Welcome to the White House on this beautiful day.  And congratulations to Kevin Harvick, the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.  Hey!  (Applause.)  It is always wonderful to have the NASCAR family here.  We’ve got huge fans in the White House, and we’ve got some big fans, including some members of Congress who are here. 

   It’s great to have Kevin’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, who is here. We’ve also got Greg Zipadelli – almost messed it up there; it’s like Obama, too many vowels.  And the team from Stewart-Haas Racing. NASCAR’s leadership is here as well. Brian France is here and Mike Helton. Welcome back.  

   And even though the Budweiser Chevy got the White House parking pass this year, I am sure Tony Stewart doesn’t mind adding another Owner’s Championship to his collection.  So congratulations to Tony.  

   I also want to offer my condolences to everybody in the NASCAR community on the passing of a legendary reporter and broadcaster, Steve Byrnes. And I know a lot of fans’ thoughts and prayers today are with his wife, Karen, and his son, Bryson.  

   We are here to celebrate, though, Kevin Harvick. This was an exciting year for the “Four Car.” As the season started, Kevin had a new team, a new crew chief to adjust to. It usually takes a little time for a driver and a crew chief to find their groove, but Kevin and Rodney seemed to figure out each other in a hurry -- sort of like when Joe Biden joined my team.
So they had instant chemistry. And as Kevin can tell you, when you have a trusted partner shouting world-class advice into your ear at every turn, you can’t lose. 

   It wasn’t long before Kevin and Rodney and the team behind the Budweiser Chevy were firing on all cylinders. ut the season was not without its ups and downs. By the second race in the season, Kevin had picked up his first checkered flag with Stewart-Haas. And then came a tough stretch – the kind where most championship seasons are forged. There were blown tires, engine failures, cut oil lines, a slew of obstacles that held the “Four Car” from finishing any higher than 36th in three out of four straight races. 

   But Kevin and Rodney stuck with it, and by the time the Chase rolled around, this team was ready. A win at Homestead capped a season where Kevin picked up five wins, led more laps than anybody on the grid – picking up his first Sprint Cup championship.  

   And by the looks of it, with two quick wins and the points lead already in place, 2015 isn’t shaping up to be too much different. 

   Kevin has also found the time to match his contributions on the track with his commitment to family and community away from racing. His wife, DeLana, and his son, Keelan, are constant presences on the track. And I know at one point, DeLana even had her own fire-suit. I’m sure it looked better than it did on Kevin. And I’m sure that if Michelle decided we were going to start wearing matching outfits, it would be me who adapted to her style. 

   Together, Kevin and DeLana run the Kevin Harvick Foundation, which aims to help underprivileged youth to excel both as students and as athletes. From helping his hometown Boys and Girls Club in Bakersfield, California renovate a gym and a playground, to supporting programming which prevents bullying and violence in his former high school, Kevin – like so many others across NASCAR – is working to make a difference. 

   So, Kevin, congratulations to you again for an outstanding season. The whole team at Stewart-Haas Racing, keep up the great work.  NASCAR, looking forward to seeing more excitement on the track. 

   Thank you so much.

Longtime NASCAR on Fox TV broadcaster Steve Byrnes dies at age 56

   Longtime NASCAR on Fox Sports TV broadcaster Steven Patrick Byrnes, who has waged a difficult and public battle with cancer over the last two years, died Tuesday. Byrnes, a resident of Fort Mill, S.C., was 56.

   Byrnes joined Fox Sports in 2001, hosting and reporting for multiple NASCAR programs and served as a pit road reporter for NASCAR on Fox’s broadcast of Sprint Cup Series races from 2001 through the 2014 season. He most recently served as the play-by-play announcer for Fox Sports 1 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and was co-host of "NASCAR Race Hub" for the network.

   Last weekend, in conjunction with Fox, Speedway Motorsports Inc. and NASCAR, the Cup race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway was renamed the Food City 500 In Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer. 

   Prior to joining Fox, Byrnes also hosted "Darrell Waltrip's Racers" on TNN, worked as a pit road reporter for CBS, WTBS and TNN, and hosted a variety of NASCAR programs for The History Channel and TNN. A 1981 graduate of the University of Maryland, Byrnes' first on-air job was at WCIV-TV in Charleston, S.C., in 1982. Byrnes also called play-by-play for a Carolina Panthers/Minnesota Vikings NFL game on Fox and Cup series races for DirecTV's "Hot Pass."
   Survivors are his wife, Karen; son Bryson; parents, Jerry and Claire Byrnes of Charlotte; sister, Betsy Byrnes of Charlotte; brother, Dan Byrnes and his wife, Tammy, of Charlotte; nephews, Tyler and Dylan Byrnes; and niece, Samantha Byrnes.  

   In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to: Church of Christ at Gold Hill Road, 1055 Gold Hill Road, Fort Mill, SC  29708; Charlotte Christian School, 7301 Sardis Road, Charlotte, NC 28270; or NASCAR Foundation, One Daytona Blvd., 6th Floor, Daytona Beach, FL 32114.