Trump becomes first president named Daytona 500 grand marshal

President Trump was named grand marshal of Sunday’s Daytona 500 in Florida, where he’ll get to announce the traditional command for the competitors to “start your engines.”

It’ll mark the first time a president, sitting or former, has ever held the role in what NASCAR bills as “The Great American Race,” Fox News reported.

George W. Bush was the only other sitting president to attend the event on the Atlantic coast in central Florida, watching in 2004, the year Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first 500.

Earnhardt was grand marshal in 2018 and will also be on the stand this Sunday to wave the green flag as honorary starter.

Former NASCAR CEO Brian France Jr. endorsed Trump in 2016, and the president hosted series champs Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. at the White House.

The commander-in-chief also awarded NASCAR team owner Roger Penske the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.

Trump will be part of the race in another way, with Joe Nemechek driving a Mike Harmon Racing car in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday sponsored by the Patriots PAC of America that will have Trump/Pence 2023 logos on it, Fox reported.

NASCAR has suffered a drop in viewership for some of its races, Forbes reported in November.

But the president was expected to give Daytona ratings a boost, when Fox airs the contest at the Daytona International Speedway at 2:30 p.m.

And NASCAR will pay out a record $23.6 million to the 40 drivers racing in the Daytona 500.

The sanctioning body released the total purse Friday, an about-face for an organization that hadn’t released payouts since the 2015 season.

NASCAR’s charter system with teams had previously prohibited the disclosure of financial details.

The Race Team Alliance announced Thursday it was close to agreeing to NASCAR’s proposal for a four-year extension to the charter system that would run through 2024.

NASCAR has experienced significant changes to its business model in recent years, with sponsorship dollars dwindling.

Drivers have had to adjust, too, with many of them working for less guaranteed money and relying more on purse winnings.

The race on Sunday is a sellout for the fifth consecutive season.

With Post wires

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