President Trump Wows The Daytona 500 Crowd

President Donald Trump and Melania Trump take to the stage for remarks prior to start of Daytona 500. [Joe Jennings Photo]

President Donald Trump and Melania Trump take to the stage for remarks prior to start of Daytona 500. [Joe Jennings Photo]

By Joe Jennings

DAYTONA BEACH – In the days leading up to each Daytona 500, there’s always a lot of excitement in the air. This year, it seemed to be extra special when it was announced that President Donald J. Trump had accepted an invitation to be the grand marshal for the 62nd edition of the “Great American Race.”

President George W. Bush attended the Daytona 500 in 2004, but President Trump became the first one to serve in an official capacity. Of course, President Ronald Reagan made headlines when he came here in July, the day that Richard Petty won his 200th NASCAR Cup Series win.

Today, President and Mrs. Trump made their way to pit road to allow him to give the command to fire up the engines.

The USAF Thunderbirds were on hand for the colorful flyover during the playing of the National Anthem and they did an unexpected and surprise encore with a formation called a “Delta Starburst.”

Once the command was given, they climbed into their “Beast” limousine and led the 40-car field on a slow lap around the track. That site wowed the packed grandstand with everyone on their feet with cameras in hand.

Unfortunately, a brief shower prevented the race from starting on time, and the President never saw a lap of competition, as he had to leave to honor other commitments.

When a sitting president comes to town, it takes a lot of planning for his presence, most notably security measures. Fans were advised to arrive early due to security screening procedures. The lines were long to allow for bag checks, wanding of each ticketholder and more checking than most fans had ever experienced. It didn’t matter where your seats were; you still had to be thoroughly checked out. Regardless, no one seemed to complain.

An example of the elaborate security checks, I had reserved parking under the grandstand. Upon approaching the parking area, I was met by the Secret Service detail, who asked me politely to get out of the car, pop the hood and trunk while I was escorted to a separate tent to be checked out.

The President and Mrs. Trump arrived on Air Force One about two hours before race time. With the airport located near the track’s backstretch, fans could see the plane arrive, first flying over the track before landing.

Some dozen or more vehicles were in the motorcade from the airport to the track where they were greeted by officials and other luminaries.

Even though, the presidential party couldn’t stay around for the race, they gave fans an experience they won’t soon forget.

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