Former NASCAR driver and noted hall-of-famer Darrell Waltrip was just feet away from President Barack Obama when he delivered a pointed message to an audience that included the Dalai Lama: "If you don't know Jesus Christ as your lord and savior ... you are going to hell."
Waltrip was the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, where he talked about how his Christian conversion transformed his life, recalling that he previously lived a life in which he primarily sought personal satisfaction.
"I did everything to satisfy me," he said.
When his wife, Stevie, tried to get him to go to church, he responded, "I just don't have time for this church stuff."
President Barack Obama laughs alongside US Senator Bob Casey (C), Democrat of Pennsylvania, as former NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip (R) tells a story during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, February 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB
Then he was in a severe crash during a race and everything changed.
"I realized that wreck knocked me conscience," Waltrip said. "It scared the hell out of me. I mean that literally. I realized, what if I had lost my life that day at Daytona? Would I have go to heaven or would I have gone to hell? I thought I was a good guy, but folks, let me tell you something: good guys go to hell."
He continued, "If you don't know Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, if you don't have a relationship, if he's not the master of your life, if you've never gotten on your knees and asked him to forgive you of your sins, or if you are just a pretty good guy or a pretty good gal, you're going to go to hell."
Waltrip also made a less than subtle reference to Ben Carson, a brain surgeon and likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate, who gave a controversial keynote address at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast.
Jokingly, Waltrip said he wondered why he would be asked to be the keynote speaker.
"I thought about it Mr. President, and I got it: I'm not a brain surgeon and I'm not running for office, so I'm the perfect guy to be here," he said to laughter. "I hope that's OK. My wife told me I shouldn't say that, but she's sitting down there shaking her head now."
Speaking right after Waltrip, Obama pointed out that the Dalai Lama was in attendance.
"There aren't many occasions that bring his Holiness under the same roof as NASCAR," Obama said to laughter. "This may be the first. But God works in mysterious ways."