That was, in fact, the first signal that this would be no “regular” Presidential appearance at the races, if there is ever such a thing. Trump is the second acting Pres to serve as grand marshal at Daytona 500 after George W. Bush, so he had to come up with something else for a first. And boy, was it a sight.
Before the official start of the event, the 100,000 attendees got to see Air Force Once (almost) up close and personal, as the massive Boeing 747-200B circled the racetrack at almost 800 feet, before landing at the nearby airport. From there, POTUS and the First Lady made their way to the racetrack, where he would give a brief speech and take a few laps in his Beast.
No other acting President has ever honored the great public at the event this way.
“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,” Trump said, calling attendees “patriots.” “NASCAR fans never forget that no matter who wins the race, what matters most is God, family and country.”
Speaking with the media on the ground, Trump said he’d like to jump into one of the race cars to do a lap or two, since he’s no longer able to drive himself. Security protocols bar him from being behind the wheel on public roads.
He was clearly joking, since that would have been out of the question as well. However, Trump (and Melania) did jump into the 22,000-pound Beast, and went for a few laps with their security detail and the other drivers in the race.
Prior to the event, Trump had promised on Twitter, “Daytona 500 is gonna be great.” He kept his promise and, based on racegoers’ reactions, it’s a good thing he put on this display of Presidential power: they kept chanting “USA! USA!” and “Four more years!”
@ComfortablySmug Everyone is talking about how brilliant Bloomberg is at marketing because he hired some Instagram influencers. Meanwhile Trump is doing flyovers with Air Force 1 at the Daytona 500 and whipping around the track in The Beast. pic.twitter.com/F5te8sgYPU— Kyle Tibbitts (@KyleTibbitts) February 16, 2020