President Trump takes lap around track to open Daytona 500

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DAYTONA — President Donald Trump on Sunday welcomed NASCAR fans before the start of this year’s Daytona 500, kicking off the 62nd annual event in Florida.

“There is no greater thrill than to join you at the world center of racing for the 62nd Daytona 500 — so exciting,” Trump said.

“To all of the drivers, technicians and pit crews today here today, good luck and may the best team win. God bless you, God bless our military, God bless our veterans and God bless America. Have a great race.”

Trump also thanked Gold Star families, who were in attendance at the race, “whose loved ones made the supreme sacrifice to honor our freedom and our flag.”

“Your fallen warriors will live in our hearts forever,” he said, before thanking new military enlistees who “took a solemn oath to put their lives on the line for our country.”

A portion of the presidential motorcade, including Trump, took a lap around the track before pulling aside just before the start of the race. The first couple was riding the car known as “The Beast.”

Trump also served as the Grand Marshal, commanding: “Gentlemen, start your engines.” He is the second American president to do so, behind George W. Bush who attended the Daytona 500 in 2004.

A person who attended planning meetings told CNN on Sunday that Trump will address some drivers and team owners in a private area before addressing race fans.

Considered the Super Bowl of stock car racing, the Daytona 500 has served as the NASCAR season opener since 1982. The race is scheduled to begin at 2:30 pm, ET. The 200-lap, 500-mile-long race will feature 40 drivers on the track of the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. The winner takes home a replica of the Harley J. Earl Trophy and about $1.5 million.

“We’re honored that the President of the United States has chosen to experience the pageantry and excitement of ‘The Great American Race’ by attending Sunday’s 62nd annual DAYTONA 500,” Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said in a statement last week.

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