By Agence France-Presse
US President Donald Trump took “The Beast” — his heavily armored Cadillac limousine — for a lumbering lap of honor around the Daytona racetrack on Sunday in front of tens of thousands of cheering fans.
Trump, who is gearing up for a re-election battle in November, was the ceremonial starter of the NASCAR Daytona 500 race, issuing the traditional order, “Gentlemen, start your engines!”
The president’s motorcade then led the field of 40 race cars on a parade lap of the revered course — a first for a US president, according to NASCAR officials.
Trump thanked the “tens of thousands of patriots” gathered at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, describing the race as “pure American glory.”
“No matter who wins,” he told the crowd, “what matters most is God, family and country.”
“Rubber will burn, fans will scream and the great American race will begin,” he said in remarks met with chants of “USA, USA!”
Traveling from his Mar-a-Lago weekend resort, Trump arrived at the racetrack on Air Force One, accompanied by his wife Melania, son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The plane did a low flyover of the track, which has a capacity of about 100,000 spectators. Some fans in the crowd held up signs supporting Trump and chanted, “Four more years!”
Florida is a key state in the election, and Trump has already been campaigning hard to persuade voters to return him to office in the November vote.
“The Beast” is the popular name for the US president’s specially-designed car. The current model is reported to weigh about 10 tons and have bomb-proof windows five inches (13 centimeters) thick.