DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – The Daytona 500 is being delayed by rain for the second time, dampening NASCAR’s season opener that started with a visit from President Donald Trump.
The first delay lasted 50 minutes and came moments after the presidential motorcade completed a ceremonial parade lap around the 2 1/2-mile track.
Trump’s armored limousine nicknamed â€œThe Beast” exited Daytona International Speedway, and the sky opened for a brief shower that forced drivers back to pit road.
The start already had been pushed back 13 minutes to accommodate Trump’s trip. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. eventually led the field to the green flag and was out front for the first 20 laps before heavier rain soaked a racing surface that takes hours to dry.
It choked some of the excitement out of an event that was a raucous celebration hours earlier, set off by Trump’s dramatic entrance. Thousands cheered as Air Force One performed a flyover and landed at Daytona International Airport a few hundred yards behind the track. Trump’s motorcade arrived a few minutes later, prompting another loud ovation. Both entrances were broadcast on giant video boards around the superspeedway.
At least a dozen drivers were escorted from the pre-race meeting to a private introduction with Trump.
â€œI got to meet the president! How cool is that?â€ driver Aric Almirola said.
Trump served as the grand marshal for the Daytona 500 and gave the command for drivers to start their engines. He then got in the limousine and turned a lap.
The president’s visit was widely welcomed by NASCAR fans. Trump 2020 flags flooded the infield, and some fans wore them as capes in the garage area.
Trump’s presence also created huge lines at entrances, with many fans complaining while waiting hours to get through security.
Former NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France, who was replaced following his August 2018 arrest on DUI charges, was on Air Force One with the president and first lady. They traveled from West Palm Beach.
Among those who met them at the airport: current NASCAR chairman Jim France and fellow top executives Lesa France Kennedy and Ben Kennedy.
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