Having a U.S. President who willingly and happily attends NASCAR events definitely portrays that they appreciate the sport’s rich history and success. Not all of them have done it, but George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, visited Daytona International Speedway on multiple occasions.
Not only did he simply attend the NASCAR events, but he appeared to be truly comfortable in the environment. Almost as if he would spend his free time there anyway, even if he weren’t the president. His first visit to the speedway was in 1978, when he was serving as the CIA director. For this first visit, he had the opportunity to serve as the grand marshal of the Daytona 500. That’s an offer that’s too good to refuse, so of course he did it. It must have had quite an impact, because this wasn’t his only visit.
In 1983, Bush returned to Daytona as the Vice President. Since President Ronald Reagan was put in the spot of the grand marshal, Bush served as the honorary starter for the 25th year of the Daytona 500. The smile that remained permanently on his face showed just how much enjoyment he really got out of those moments as the race cars roared beneath him. His third and final visit was on July 4, 1992, where he attended the Pepsi 400 at the request of Bill France Jr. And, this time, Bush was the President.
France was driving the pace car with George Bush in the passenger seat, and they got quite a few hot laps in. ’92 was also a significant year in NASCAR as it marked Richard Petty’s final start as a driver. While speaking from the infield to those in the grandstands, Bush celebrated Independence Day, complimented the Americans in the crowd, and even paid tribute to Richard Petty’s career. There’s no doubt that Bush earned respect from the American people, and especially NASCAR fans, during each of these appearances at Daytona.
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