INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - There’s a Dump The Donald movement afoot at the Indy 500.
Race organizers selected real estate mogul Donald Trump as this year’s celebrity pace car driver a month ago. Since then, the potential Republican presidential candidate has created a stir by questioning whether President Obama was born outside the United States and whether he was qualified to attend the Ivy League schools he did.
Race fans, local citizens and an Indiana state lawmaker want to force Trump out of his next celebrity apprenticeship: driving the pace car May 29 just before the centennial celebration of the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“To me, when they first named Donald Trump, it just felt wrong,” said Michael Wallack, who started a Facebook page in hopes of firing Trump. “He has no relationship to the track, to the race, to racing, to Indianapolis, and I think I would have been bothered anytime with something like that. But to do that on the 100th anniversary, it made no sense.
“Then when he started going off on the birther stuff,” Wallack said, “that prompted me to do more and that’s when I started the page.”
Obama has publicly released his birth certificate from Hawaii, but members of the so-called “birther” movement are arguing in federal court that the document has been falsified.
“The debate stems from unfounded, incorrect and malicious lies that Donald Trump has a racial bias toward the President,” said Michael Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel to Trump. “Nothing could be further from the truth, as Donald Trump doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.
“Mr. Trump’s request for President Obama’s birth certificate, school records and documents were predicated upon transparency, a major part of President Obama’s 2008 platform,” Cohen said. “If Mr. Trump should become the next president, he would provide these documents willingly.”
Changing the pace car driver might be a first.
“As far as I know, the speedway has not changed a pace car driver,” Boles said. “But there’s been a pace car since 1911, so I don’t know if anybody could definitively say it’s not been changed.”
The speedway has a rich tradition of using celebrity pace car drivers from outside auto racing. Since 2000, the list includes actors Anthony Edwards, Jim Caviezel, Morgan Freeman and Josh Duhamel; seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong; supermodel Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp; and “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts. One potential political candidate, retired Gen. Colin Powell, also drove the pace car in 2005.
The race’s reputation has survived other brushes with controversy, including a split between the two major open-wheel series and Steven Tyler’s rendition of the national anthem.
Trump, opponents contend, is more polarizing and might overshadow the race.