Trump's Presidential Motorcade Leads Pace Lap for Daytona 500, Trump Was Grand Marshal

The Daytona 500 is the most notorious race of the season on the NASCAR circuit, and it's also the first race of the season. It's become known as the Great American Race. On Sunday, President Donald Trump became the first commander-in-chief to lead the pace lap, and he did it with his presidential motorcade.

Trump's entrance to the Daytona International Speedway was more than grand. Fans at the track got a flyover from Air Force One as the president arrived, then the president and first lady Melania Trump made their way to the track in the limousine known as "The Beast." The president and first lady were introduced to the crowd, in which the fans had intertwined chants of "USA" and "four more years."

After the singing of "God Bless America," an invocation and the national anthem, President Trump delivered the four famous words in racing—but he added his own introduction before starting their engines.

"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 before saying those four words. "Gentlemen, start your engines."

A voice soon came over the communications system, and that message to the president was aired on TV:

"Mr. President and first lady, will you please do us the honor of leading the field for the Daytona 500."

Trump and the first lady rode in one of the limousines of a motorcade, and they made their way around the track that is two and a half miles.

Trump Daytona 500
US President Donald Trump rides in his limousine, known as the Beast, as it took off at 3:11 pm ET on the Daytona International Speedway trailed by todays NASCAR race cars during the Daytona 500 race on February 16, 2020 in Daytona, Florida. - They made a complete lap a first with the full fleet of racing cars, according to a top NASCAR official. President Trump crossed the finish line. Photo by SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Then as the race cars followed the regular pace car for another lap, the president spoke to all of them through their headsets.

"Drivers, this is President Trump. It was an honor to open the Daytona 500. Have a phenomenal day, have a great race, be safe. God bless you, we love you," Trump said.

Mike Joy, the lead race announcer on Fox, said, "If you weren't nervous before, how 'bout now?"

Trump is the fourth sitting president to attend a race at Daytona. The others were Ronald Reagan in 1984, George H.W. Bush in 1992 and George W. Bush in 2004.

Trump has actually attended the race four other times—the last in 2001. This time he had an entirely different role.

"It really is the Great American Race, and I look at this as almost a patriotism kind of thing. It's incredible, the people are incredible," Trump said during an interview on the track. "We love the area, we love this state and it's very exciting. You know I've been here four times before, as a civilian, and now I'm here in a different capacity. We love NASCAR and we love the people of NASCAR."

Trump was asked if he ever gets to drive anymore, and he said he wanted to jump into a race car and compete on Sunday.

"Right now, if I can, I'm going to hop into one of these cars and I'm going to get into this race, if possible," Trump said before hopping into his limousine for a pace lap.