Attending the race fits naturally into the president’s schedule. He will spend the holiday weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort, then fly north to Daytona Beach for the NASCAR Cup Series’s season opener and premier event. It also figures to be friendly ground for Trump, who was warmly greeted last month when he attended college football’s national championship game between LSU and Clemson in New Orleans.
When Joey Logano, the 2018 Cup Series champion, visited the White House in April, Trump praised the driver and team owner Roger Penske, saying: “They’re winners, right? The team is a winner, and NASCAR is a winner.”
Trump/Pence logos appeared on some NASCAR vehicles in 2016, and Trump’s name will appear on Mike Harmon Racing’s cars this weekend, too. Joe Nemechek will have Trump 2020 and Trump/Pence 2020 logos on his No. 47 Chevrolet Camaro SS during Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, and Mike Harmon’s No. 74 Chevrolet will bear a smaller Trump/Pence 2020 logo. (The car’s primary logo will be for Veterans for Child Rescue.) Nemechek’s sponsor is the Patriots PAC of America, which is unaffiliated with the Trump reelection campaign.
Trump has appeared at a number of the biggest events in sports over the past year or so, drawing a variety of responses. He received a mixed reception when he attended an MMA bout in early November at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and he was booed when he attended Game 5 of the World Series in Washington the previous month. Trump was greeted with cheers and boos in November when he attended the LSU-Alabama game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He has made several appearances at the Army-Navy game and attended December’s game in Philadelphia.
“I can’t wait for President Trump to show up and for all of the race fans to acknowledge him,” driver Kyle Busch told reporters Wednesday, “and just to have that fun atmosphere of a president at the Daytona 500.”
Trump will be the second sitting president to attend the race, after George W. Bush appeared at the 500 in 2004. Both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush visited the track but during races other than the Daytona 500. Trump has attended at least one other Daytona 500, in 2000.
Capacity at the racetrack is 101,500 and last year’s race was a sellout, but attendance overall at the track and at NASCAR races around the country has sagged in recent years, as have TV ratings.
Philip Rucker contributed to this report.