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Trump to court ‘God-fearing, country-loving Americans’ at Daytona 500

Daytona 500
Flags fly in the infield during NASCAR Daytona 500 qualifying at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday in Daytona Beach, Fla. | Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Photo

Trump to court ‘God-fearing, country-loving Americans’ at Daytona 500

By DANIEL LIPPMAN, ANITA KUMAR and TINA NGUYEN

President Donald Trump has his next MAGA-friendly sporting event lined up — the Daytona 500.

The president on Sunday is expected to attend the annual NASCAR race, one of the most famous on the auto racing circuit. From being booed at the World Series to cheered at the college football championship game, Trump has spent the last few months popping up at various sporting events around the country — to mixed reactions. But Sunday’s event promises to be a favorable landscape for a president who is trying to court voters in an election year through such appearances.

An outside Trump adviser said the Trump campaign had always planned to do a NASCAR event to appeal to the sport’s fan base, which includes many middle class male southerners who supported Trump in 2016. “It’s the base,” the person said. “God-fearing, country-loving Americans.”

Trump has used similar language in praising NASCAR.

“You never forget what matters most,” Trump said of NASCAR last year when welcoming the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Joey Logano to the White House. “God, family and country.”

Trump, who plans to spend this weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in south Florida, will fly to the season-opening NASCAR race on his way back to Washington, according to two people familiar with the situation, including a Capitol Hill Republican aide.

Trump has shown an affinity for NASCAR in recent years after former CEO Brian France, Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and drivers Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman and David Ragan endorsed him when he was running for president in 2016. He later said multiple times that he had been endorsed by NASCAR.

The race itself this year will feature several cars sporting pro-Trump logos. Automotive news site GM Authority reported last week that a pro-Trump super PAC had sponsored two drivers, Tim Viens and Joe Nemechek, to run Trump-Pence 2020 insignia on their cars during the season opener this weekend.

Air traffic controllers at Daytona Beach International Airport said this week that Trump might be flying in to the Daytona 500. The FAA also posted a notice on its website alerting pilots to expect VIP movement — often a sign of the president’s travel — on Sunday in the vicinity of Daytona Beach.

The White House, the Trump campaign, NASCAR and the Daytona Speedway didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Three other Republican presidents attended the Daytona 500: Ronald Reagan in 1984, George H.W. Bush in 1992 and George W. Bush in 2004. Recent Democratic presidents have not attended the race.

By DANIEL LIPPMAN, ANITA KUMAR and TINA NGUYEN 02/12/2020 02:16 PM EST