Trump Revs Up Crowd at Daytona 500, First President Grand Marshall

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Posted: Feb 16, 2020 4:55 PM
Trump Revs Up Crowd at Daytona 500, First President Grand Marshall

Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

President Trump and First Lady Melania arrived in style at the Daytona 500 NASCAR Race on Sunday. Air Force One flew overhead, some mere 800 feet or so above the speedway. While it was the fifth time Donald Trump has attended the Daytona race, it was the first time Trump attended as president. The commander-in-chief made history on Sunday as the first president ever tapped as Grand Marshall to kickoff The Great American Race. 

After jetting over the raceway on Air Force One, the president and Melania then entered the Daytona International Speedway and made a lap around the track in the president's 10-ton armored Cadillac sedan, dubbed "The Beast."  

The raucous crowd erupted in chants of "Four more years" and "USA" when the First Couple exited "The Beast" and stepped foot on the raceway. 

With Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" playing in the background, the president and First Lady took the stage to address the more than 100,000 people who attended this year's race. 

"My fellow race fans," Trump said to the crowd, "there is no greater thrill than to join you at the world center of racing for the 62nd Daytona 500. So exciting. The Daytona 500 is a legendary display of roaring engines, soaring spirits, and the American skill, speed and power that we've been hearing about for so many years. The tens of thousands of patriots here today have come for the fast cars and the world-class motorsports but NASCAR fans never forget that no matter who wins the race what matters most is God, family and country." 

The president then welcomed Gold Star families in attendance and those watching all across America. "Your fallen warriors will live in our hearts forever," the president declared. 

Trump acknowledged Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, also in attendance, who the president awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to last summer. Ballavia is currently the only living recipient to receive the prestigious award for his heroic actions in the Iraq War. The commander-in-chief then thanked all new and current enlistees of the U.S. Armed Forces. 

While other presidents have attended the popular race in the past, President Trump is the first commander-in-chief to deliver the "start your engines" signature command as Grand Marshall of the great American race. 

"Daytona International Speedway, we love our country and it's truly an honor to be with all of you The Great American Race," Trump began. 

The president then delivered the most famous words in motorsports, "Gentlemen, start your engines," as fighter jets raced overhead. 

After pacing the field for a moment, the president hopped on an officials' radio and addressed the drivers and crew members participating in Sunday's race. 

"Drivers, this is President Trump. It was an honor to open the Daytona 500. Have a phenomenal day. Have a great race, be safe. God bless you. We love you." 

In an interview with Fox Sports' Jamie Little, the president admired the bravery of the drivers and said he likes watching NASCAR races for the speed and technology of the cars. And while Trump isn't allowed to drive any car himself as president, Trump told Jamie Little that his goal for the day was to "hop into one of these cars and get into this race, if possible."

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.