- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2020

President Trump revved up the 62nd annual Daytona 500 and his conservative base on Sunday, giving the command as grand marshal for the NASCAR drivers to “start your engines” and airing a new TV campaign ad during the famous race.

“Daytona International Speedway, we love our country and it’s truly an honor to be with all of you at the great American race,” Mr. Trump said on the track beside first lady Melania Trump. “Gentlemen, start your engines!”

The president and first lady then rode in “the Beast,” the armored presidential limousine, to lead the racers in a parade lap around the racetrack.

In a radio transmission to the drivers, Mr. Trump told them, “You are the best in the world at what you do, and I want to wish you luck in today’s Daytona 500. I hope you all have a fantastic race. You should all be proud to be competing in this incredible event.”

“The Daytona 500 is the biggest race in the world and all of America is watching. Give the fans a great show,” Mr. Trump told them.

Earlier, the president also addressed more than 100,000 NASCAR fans before the start of the race, calling them patriots and billing the race as “pure American glory.”

“My fellow race fans, the Daytona 500 is a legendary display,” the president said. “Rubber will burn, fans will scream and the great American race will begin.

No matter who wins, Mr. Trump said, “what matters most is God, family and country.”

The crowd responded with chants of “USA! USA!”

Mr. Trump became the second president to serve as grand marshal the Daytona 500; President George W. Bush appeared there in 2004 as he, too, campaigned for reelection with a racing fan base that is largely conservative.

The Trump campaign also was airing a new TV ad titled “New Heights” on Fox News during the broadcast of the race, highlighting the president’s record of “a strong and growing economy, protecting our borders and national security, respecting military veterans, and restoring pride in the country,” the campaign said in a statement.

Further, the campaign was flying an aerial banner near the track on race day.

“President Trump’s record of accomplishment for this country is indisputable and Americans are prouder of their country than ever before,” said campaign manager Brad Parscale. “NASCAR fans are patriots who support the president in huge numbers, so we definitely wanted to communicate directly with them about Keeping America Great during the Great American Race.”

Also airing campaign ads during the Daytona broadcast was deep-pocketed Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.

The president will return to Washington later Sunday, and on Tuesday he’ll begin a four-day swing through western states that includes campaign rallies in Phoenix; Las Vegas and Colorado Springs.

He’ll also attend a fundraiser in Beverly Hills, California, and a meeting with the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Organizing Committee.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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