President Donald Trump leads field on a pace lap after giving command ahead of Daytona 500

President Donald Trump speaks before the start of the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump delivered the command for drivers to start their engines ahead of the 62nd Daytona 500 on Sunday.

“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. “Gentlemen, start your engines.”

After he made the command, Trump led the field in a pace lap in his limousine.

[Rain postpones Daytona 500 to Monday]

Before making the command, Trump delivered remarks to the crowd just after 2:30 p.m. ET. He spoke for approximately four minutes at a podium set up in victory lane.

“For 500 heart-pounding miles, these fierce competitors will chase the checkered flag, fight for the Harley J. Earl trophy and make their play for pure American glory,” Trump said in those comments. “And that’s what it is. Pure American glory.”

In an interview with Fox just before giving the command, Trump said he viewed the Daytona 500 “as almost a patriotism kind of thing.”

Not long after Trump’s limousine pulled off the track, rain started to fall at Daytona and the start of the 500 was delayed. The rain put a halt to any plans Trump had of watching the first few laps of the race as his motorcade exited the track at just before 3:45 p.m. without a green flag lap being completed.

The first rain delay took approximately 50 minutes and NASCAR got 20 laps of racing complete before a second rain delay arrived. That delay pushed the remaining 180 laps of the race to 4 p.m. ET on Monday. It’s just the second time in Daytona 500 history that the race will be completed on a Monday.

After arriving at Daytona International Speedway before the race, Trump was met at the Daytona Beach International Airport located behind the backstretch of the track by the France family. The family founded NASCAR in the 1940s. Former NASCAR CEO Brian France endorsed Trump for president at a 2016 rally for the then-candidate.

Per a pool report from the White House press corps following the president, France stepped off Air Force One with the president. It would be the first public appearance at a race for the former CEO of NASCAR since he was arrested for DWI and drug possession in August of 2018.

Trump’s appearance at Daytona is the first for a sitting president since 2004, when George W. Bush came to the race. The president was invited to Daytona by Rep. Michael Waltz (R), the U.S. House member who represents the area of Florida that includes Daytona Beach.

The Daytona 500 is the fourth sporting event Trump has attended since he went to the World Series. After going to Alabama’s game against LSU in November Trump has been to Navy’s win over Army and LSU’s national championship game win against Clemson.

The president was in friendly territory at each of the last three sporting events and the Daytona 500 was no different. You didn’t have to look far to find Trump flags flying over campers and recreational vehicles and he received raucous cheers from among the 100,000 people set to attend. The reception was a contrast to the welcome that then-First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden received while at the 2011 NASCAR season finale at Homestead and a mini-controversy ensued about the booing that could be heard on the race telecast.

As Air Force One approached the airport just beyond the backstretch at Daytona International before landing at 1:05 p.m., the plane dipped low and cruised over the track so fans could get a dramatic glimpse of the behemoth 747 before it touched down. No other sporting event would have allowed fans to get such a close glimpse of the president’s plane landing.

Trump’s presence at the track spurred intense security, especially in Daytona’s infield fan zones. Fans reportedly waited up to three hours to get into the infield areas behind pit road because of the Secret Service’s security protocols. Even drivers had to get checked by metal-detecting wands as they entered the garage area.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., right, goes through a security checkpoint before the drivers meeting for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Fla. Extra security measures were taken at the speedway because of the visit of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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