The 62nd running of the Daytona 500 was held on Sunday. The race is NASCAR’s season opener and considered the most prestigious and important race in NASCAR. It is called America’s Race. President Trump and First Lady Melania made history at the event and their critics are not happy.
President Trump served as the Grand Marshal of the Daytona 500 this year. He is the second president to do so – George W. Bush did it in 2004 during his re-election campaign. What made Trump’s trip to the racing event historic was the lap around the track that he and Melania took in The Beast, the presidential limo. The sold-out event seats 100,000 racing fans and they were excited, to say the least. The media covering the event? Not so much. One White House correspondent wanted to make sure everyone knew that the taxpayers were paying for that lap around the track.
This was an official White House event therefore paid by taxpayers as @realDonaldTrump @FLOTUS attended Daytona 500 today and “The Beast” limo ran a pace car lap around the track. pic.twitter.com/xb0QdBYEEI
— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) February 16, 2020
A reporter for the New York Times chimed in, citing Trump’s use of “government apparatus” and calling it “a political event”.
Using the official apparatus of government for what appears to be a political event https://t.co/GWNm8io8O1
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 16, 2020
Haberman took some heat for her ham-handed tweet.
I'm sorry, but this is just an absurd characterization of what's actually happening here and describing it this way betrays a real bias. https://t.co/V4D7iQDcq4
— Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) February 16, 2020
Others pointed out that Presidents often participate in sporting events – they throw out the first pitch on baseball’s opening day or attend Olympic events. Some attend the Super Bowl or other championship games. In other words, it’s not unusual. This is President Trump we are talking about, though, so outrage from the left is pretty much guaranteed.
Trump called the event “pure American glory”. He admitted in an interview that he’d like to drive one of the cars himself.
“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 told the crowd before the race began.
He called the tens of thousands of fans present at the racetrack “patriots,” adding that “NASCAR fans never forget that no matter who wins the race, what matters most is God, family and country.”
In an interview from the track, Trump told Fox Sports that while he’s not able to drive his own car as president, he was tempted to get behind the wheel of one of the race cars.
“Right now, if I can, I’m gonna hop into one of these cars and I’m gonna get into this race, if possible,” he joked.
While AP reporters were busy mocking tailgate celebrations and food consumed by regular people at the event, the crowd was thrilled to have the president and Melania there. The president served a college team some fast food at the White House during the government shutdown, you know.
AP also dinged Trump: “The tailgating feast at one stop was fit for a president who served fast food at the White House to college football champions: deep fried honey buns and deep fried Oreos were on the dessert menu — or maybe it was dinner? — and cheap domestic beers easily slipped into NASCAR koozies.”
The AP writers also included impeachment into the story, because of course they did.
News of Trump’s public appearances are, of course, incomplete without mention of the “I” word. The AP writers crossed that one off their list in the first paragraph:
“Stroll through the Daytona infield and fans can grab a seat next to President Donald Trump and get a sweet taste of impeachment.
“Debi Ringhaver is mixing cocktails for curious NASCAR fans who stop in their tracks at the sight of her lifesize mannequin of Trump, chilling on a lawn chair, holding a book titled ‘The Truth Behind Trump’ and wearing a red ‘Donald Trump 2020’ baseball cap.
“Hundreds have stopped by her RV this week for a selfie or a chat or a sip of ‘The Impeachment,’ a blend of peach vodka, champagne and peach nectar. The ‘Subpoena Colada’ also is in the blender, but Ringhaver concedes ‘it’s just a pina colada with a better name.’ ”
The Guardian was busy telling readers that NASCAR fans are just a bunch of old white Republicans. The truth is that NASCAR’s audience is changing and includes people from all walks of life. To assume all race car fans are Republicans is wrong, though conservatives make up a big part of the fan base. NASCAR CEO Brian France endorsed Trump in 2016.
Not going to lie, I had no idea what to expect. The man walked in shook all our hands, took selfies, and whatever we asked of him. I judge people on how they treat me and others I’m with, and that’s why I really appreciated meeting @POTUS. thanks for coming to #DAYTONA500 pic.twitter.com/Ih0DVaTLAr
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) February 16, 2020
You’d think Trump was the first president to understand the value of supporting NASCAR to read the left’s reaction in social media. President Obama invited NASCAR winners to the White House – I wonder if he served food. President Reagan was the first sitting president to attend a NASCAR race. He attended what was then called the Firecracker 400 in Daytona in 1984. George W. Bush also served as the grand marshal of the Pepsi 400 in July 2000. The crowd appreciated the special attention of Trump and chanted “Four more years” as he made his remarks.
Let’s be honest – the presence of President Trump and First Lady Melania was the feel-good moment of the weekend, combining a national pastime and politics. Trump is a master marketer and regular Americans want to know that they are appreciated. Trump is good about reaching out to all people and yes, it’s a good move for his re-election campaign.
Eighteen-year-old Hailie Deegan, the second woman to win a NASCAR race and the first woman to win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West posted this:
— Hailie Deegan (@HailieDeegan) February 16, 2020
Sorry haters, the people loved it. The president and first lady got the crowd revved-up and the media scowled. That’s 2020 in a nutshell.
Daytona averages more than 23x the viewers of CNN's Brian Stelter at their highest point. So if you've watched him but not Daytona, maybe tune in to see what the country cares about.
— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) February 16, 2020