NASCAR phenom Hailie Deegan had one goal in mind as she approached the Daytona 500 on Sunday. And it had nothing to do with driving.
“Today’s goal. Get my helmet signed by Trump,” she tweeted before the race.
“DM me… I may know someone,” Donald Trump Jr. replied.
DM me… I may know someone. https://t.co/bJoxmZFP73
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 16, 2020
In short order, Deegan’s Twitter account posted a picture of her standing with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, while holding the helmet Trump had signed.
— Hailie Deegan (@HailieDeegan) February 16, 2020
— B.J. Nash (@bjnno1) February 16, 2020
The president was the grand marshal for the legendary race, and took a lap in his limousine dubbed “The Beast.”
Trump called the Daytona 500 “a legendary display of roaring engines, soaring spirits and the American skill, speed and power that we’ve been hearing about for so many years,” The Associated Press reported.
“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 told the crowd prior to the race. “That’s what it is, pure American glory.”
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) February 16, 2020
“Drivers: It was an honor to officially open this year’s Daytona 500 and drive the first Parade Lap with you,” Trump said in a message to drivers, according to a White House media pool report. “Thank you. You are the best in the world at what you do, and I want to wish you luck in today’s Daytona 500. I hope you all have a fantastic race.”
“You should all be proud to be competing in this incredible event. The Daytona 500 is the biggest race in the world and all of America is watching. Give the fans a great show!” Trump added in his message.
“And to all the race fans. I love your passion for this sport. I hope you enjoy the Great American Race! God bless you and God bless the United States of America.”
Driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was leading when rain stopped the race, said Trump’s presence meant a lot.
“Any time the president who runs your country is coming to a sporting event that you are involved in, it says a lot about the sporting event and how much this race means to everybody,” Stenhouse told the AP. “You’ve got to respect the one that’s in charge.”
Deegan, 18, was the runner-up in her first Automobile Racing Club of America race at Daytona earlier this month.
“Second is winning this weekend,” Deegan said then, according to the New York Post. “I think winning the first race would have been a little too high of standards for us this season. Everything would have been downhill. So at least I have something to work toward.”
“I feel like the first race sets the tone for the season,” Deegan said. “Having a good first race can help keep the ball rolling and help the guys at the shop. When you are on a nice, positive high level, you bounce that off each other and the work ethic and it just helps for the rest of the year.”
Deegan won the NASCAR Diversity Young Racer award in 2017.
The following January, she became a full-time driver in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
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