Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion
"Like Mike, Jimmie has won six championships in eight years," Obama, a well-known Chicago sports fan, said in reference to the Chicago Bulls legend as Johnson stood to the president's left.
To Obama's right on the stage were Rick Hendrick, owner of Johnson's
"While sometimes the two might sound like an old married couple sniping [at] each other over the radio, Jimmie knows that without Chad -- and Rick and the entire team at Hendrick Motorsports -- he'd be just another mortal making left turns," Obama said.
Obama also noted that Johnson, with a series-high three wins so far this season, is trying to join Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt as the only drivers to win seven Cup championships.
If Johnson did so, that naturally would mean a return trip to the White House.
"Maybe we should just make it easier on everybody [and] give the No. 48 a permanent White House pass," Obama quipped, then added, "Don't take my parking spot."
"Yes, sir," a smiling Johnson replied.
The next race for Johnson and the other Cup drivers is Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.