U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump ride in a presidential limousine as they take a pace lap ahead of the start of the Daytona 500 NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, February 16, 2020. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump took a loop around the Daytona 500 racetrack on Sunday in the presidential limousine known as “The Beast,” drawing cheers from fans at NASCAR’S most prestigious race.
Ramping up his nationwide re-election effort after his acquittal in the U.S. Senate impeachment trial, Trump served as the grand marshal at the annual National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing event, which takes place in the electoral swing state of Florida.
After his motorcade made its way around part of the track, Trump took a break to take pictures with supporters. After being driven a full lap in the limo before the race began, Trump delivered the opening line: “Gentlemen, start your engines” at the Daytona International Speedway before a crowd of 100,000.
“We love our country and it’s truly an honor to be with you,” the Republican president told cheering supporters, some of whom shouted “Four more years.”
Trump’s campaign is taking advantage of the president’s appearance to fly an aerial banner near the speedway and run a television ad during the Fox broadcast of the race.
“NASCAR fans are patriots who support the president in huge numbers, so we definitely wanted to communicate directly with them about Keeping America Great during the Great American Race,” 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
Previous presidents who attended NASCAR events at the speedway include Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Florida is one of a handful of U.S. states that swing between Democrats and Republicans in presidential elections. Trump won the state, where he has golf courses and a home that is now considered his primary residence, in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Trump plans a fundraising swing and political rallies in Western states this week. He spent the weekend at his resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall, Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney
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