President Trump gives command for drivers to start their engines at Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — President Donald Trump delivered the command for drivers to start their engines ahead of the 62nd Daytona 500 on Sunday.

“Daytona International Speedway, we love our country and it’s truly an honor to be with all of you at the Great American Race,” Trump said. “Gentlemen, start your engines.”

Before making the command, Trump delivered remarks to the crowd just after 2:30 p.m. ET. He spoke for approximately four minutes at a podium set up in victory lane.

“For 500 heart-pounding miles, these fierce competitors will chase the checkered flag, fight for the Harley J. Earl trophy and make their play for pure American glory,” Trump said in those comments. And that’s what it is. Pure American glory.”

In an interview with Fox just before giving the command, Trump said he viewed the Daytona 500 “as almost a patriotism kind of thing.”

After arriving at Daytona International Speedway before the race, Trump was met at the Daytona Beach International Airport located behind the track by the France family. The family founded NASCAR in the 1940s. Former NASCAR CEO Brian France endorsed Trump for president at a 2016 rally for the then-candidate.

Per a pool report from the White House press corps following the president, France stepped off Air Force One with the president. It would be the first public appearance at a race for the former CEO of NASCAR since he was arrested for DWI and drug possession in August of 2018.

Trump’s appearance at Daytona is the first for a sitting president since 2004, when George W. Bush came to the race. The president was invited to Daytona by Rep. Michael Waltz (R), the U.S. House member who represents the area of Florida that includes Daytona Beach.

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Daytona 500 wrecks
Chase Elliott (9), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17), Brad Keselowski (2), Kyle Larson (42), Ty Dillon (13) and Alex Bowman (88) wreck in Turn 3 during the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Ryan Blaney (12), Aric Almirola (10), Paul Menard (21), David Ragan (38) and Matt DiBenedetto (95) start a multi-car wreck between Turns 3 and 4 during the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Multiple cars, including Austin Dillon (3), Daniel Suarez (41), David Ragan (38), Paul Menard (21), Ryan Newman (6), Aric Almirola (10), Matt DiBenedetto (95), and Ryan Blaney (12) crash during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Multiple cars, including Austin Dillon (3), Daniel Suarez (41), David Ragan (38), Paul Menard (21), Ryan Newman (6), Aric Almirola (10), Matt DiBenedetto (95) and Ryan Blaney (12) crash during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Multiple cars, including Austin Dillon (3), Daniel Suarez (41), David Ragan (38), Paul Menard (21), Ryan Newman (6), Aric Almirola (10), Matt DiBenedetto (95) and Ryan Blaney (12) crash during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Multiple cars crash during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Topper)
Erik Jones (20), William Byron (24), Brad Keselowski (2), and Brendan Gaughan (62) crash during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/David Graham)
Multiple cars crash during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Topper)
Multiple cars crash during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Topper)
Multiple cars crash during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Topper)
Ryan Blaney (12), Aric Almirola (10), Paul Menard (21), David Ragan (38) and Matt DiBenedetto (95) start a multi-car wreck between Turns 3 and 4 during the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Matt DiBenedetto (95), Ryan Blaney (12), Matt Tifft (36), Aric Almirola (10), Paul Menard (21), Ryan Newman (6), David Ragan (38), Daniel Suarez (41) and Austin Dillon (3) collide between Turns 3 and 4 during the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Brad Keselowski (2) slides across the track after getting into a crash during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Jamie McMurray, center, crashes into Darrell Wallace Jr. (43) after Kurt Busch, right, spins out from the wreck during the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Ron Sander)
Matt Tifft (36), Darrell Wallace Jr. (43), Kurt Busch (1) and Jamie McMurray (40) are involved in a wreck in Turn 2 during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Darrell Wallace Jr. (43) gets caught up in a wreck with Kurt Busch (1) as Clint Bowyer (14) goes high to avoid the crash during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Ron Sander)
Erik Jones (20), William Byron (24), Brad Keselowski (2) and Brendan Gaughan (62) crash during the late stages of a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Tyler Reddick (31) is hit from behind by Cody Ware (52) during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Tyler Reddick (31) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17) slide into a pit stall after colliding during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
BJ McLeod (51) and Cody Ware (52) spin on the front stretch during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Cody Ware wrecks coming into pit road with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17) and Tyler Reddick (31) during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/David Graham)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17) slips between Cody Ware (52) and Tyler Reddick (31) as they crash on pit road during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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The Daytona 500 is the fourth sporting event Trump has attended since he went to the World Series. After going to Alabama’s game against LSU in November Trump has been to Navy’s win over Army and LSU’s national championship game win against Clemson.

The president was in friendly territory at each of the last three sporting events and the Daytona 500 was no different. You didn’t have to look far to find Trump flags flying over campers and recreational vehicles and he received raucous cheers from among the 100,000 people set to attend. The reception was a contrast to the welcome that then-First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden received while at the 2011 NASCAR season finale at Homestead and a mini-controversy ensued about the booing that could be heard on the race telecast.

As Air Force One approached the airport before landing at 1:05 p.m., the plane dipped low and cruised over the track so fans could get a dramatic glimpse of the behemoth 747 before it touched down. No other sporting event would have allowed fans to get such a close glimpse of the president’s plane landing.

Trump’s presence at the track spurred intense security, especially in Daytona’s infield fan zones. Fans reportedly waited up to three hours to get into the infield areas behind pit road because of the Secret Service’s security protocols. Even drivers had to get checked by metal-detecting wands as they entered the garage area.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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