The president called it “pure American glory,” and he was ready to give the command as the grand marshal at NASCAR’s Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 16. President Trump became only the second sitting president to attend the 500, and the first president to do a lap before the race in the armored presidential limo, dubbed “The Beast.”
“The Daytona 500 is the legendary display of roaring engines, soaring spirits, and the American skill, speed, and power that we’ve been hearing about for so many years,” President Trump addressed the crowd with First Lady Melania Trump by his side, at the 100,000-seat racetrack at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway prior to the race. Referring to the crowd as “patriots,” the president said, “NASCAR fans never forget that no matter who wins the race, what matters most is God, family, and country.”
The president is second to George W.Bush, who gave the race command in 2004, the year Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first 500. Earnhardt was there on Sunday to wave the green flag as honorary starter. President Trump was endorsed in 2016 by former NASCAR CEO Brian France Jr. and has hosted series champions Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. at The White House. In 2019 the president presented NASCAR team owner Roger Penske with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Right now, if I can, I’m gonna hop into one of these cars and I’m gonna get into this race, if possible,” the president joked with Fox Sports during an interview trackside.
“Gentlemen, start your engines!” announced the president to the pack of 40 racers, before taking a lap with the first lady in “The Beast.”
Shortly after the president’s historic lap, the skies opened up and forced officials to postpone the race. It was rescheduled to Monday at 4 p.m. ET.
Hailie Deegan, the 18-year-old driver deemed “NASCAR’s Next Big Superstar,” managed to get the photo she had been hoping for. The president and the first lady posed with Deegan after she had tweeted earlier in the day, “Today’s goal. Get my helmet signed by Trump.”
Donald Trump Jr., who responded on Twitter, “DM me… I may know someone.”
DM me… I may know someone. https://t.co/bJoxmZFP73
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 16, 2020
Although not slated to drive in the 500, Deegan made her stock car debut at Daytona earlier this month, finishing second to Michael Self in the ARCA Series season opener on Feb. 8, reported Fox News.
— Rep. Michael Waltz (@RepMichaelWaltz) February 16, 2020