DAYTONA BEACH – President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were showered with cheers as they took a lap at Daytona International Speedway in his limousine prior to Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Trump addressed the crowd and was given a rousing ovation when he said it didn’t matter who wins the race but “what matters most is God, family and country.”
Portions of the crowd chanted “four more years” as Trump spoke to the crowd ahead of the race.
Trump was the grand marshal for the Daytona 500 and delivered the traditional, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” instructions after drivers got into their cars.
Pam Bayles, 58, from Daytona Beach, said it took her two hours to get into the infield because of the heightened security, with the Secret Service searching fans at the entrance. However, she said getting to see Trump made the wait worth it.
“When Trump was running in 2016, and he did his rally at the Ocean Center, I got there at 4 in the morning and I was the first one at the door,” she said. “The Secret Service let me go in the VIP area because I kept bugging them. Now, you gotta camp out to even get inside. So I said I was a Trumper before Trumpers were cool. That’s what I always tell everybody.
“I love Trump.”
Trump is the second sitting president to be named grand marshal for the Daytona 500.
In 2004, George W. Bush was the first sitting president to give the iconic command at Daytona International Speedway. Ronald Reagan was the first sitting president to attend a NASCAR race at the speedway at the Firecracker 400 in 1984.
Trump also got ovations from the crowd when he spoke about the military and for saying, “God bless America.”
Asked what Trump’s presence added to the Great American Race, Robert Likavec responded, “A longer wait in line.”
But the 55-year-old from Toledo, Ohio, added, “I’m a big supporter of Donald Trump. Safest place in America to be right now.”
Thousands of people cheered as Air Force One did a flyover over Daytona International Speedway before landing at the Daytona International Airport.