Making an appearance prior to Super Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walked the across a stage at Valdosta State University in Georgia attempting to sway voters to support the real estate mogul.
Adding a NASCAR presence to his campaign, Trump was endorsed by NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. Citing that France’s “leadership and strength are desperately needed,” Trump’s campaign sent out a release following the rally at the Georgia college.
“I’ve known Donald for over 20 years,” France said at the rally. “I’m going to tell you one thing: you know about his winning and success. He wins with his family. Any of his children, you’d be proud to have in your family. That’s how I judge a winner.”
Joining France on the stage were NASCAR drivers Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott and David Ragan, with Elliott and Ragan hailing from Georgia. Additionally, NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott also endorsed Trump.
Trump called Elliott, a Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, “the hottest young driver in the world.”
Currently, Trump is predicted to win the Republican nominee in Georgia by approximately 10 percent ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), according to a survey conducted by CBS News and YouGov. There are nearly 600 delegates at stake for the Republicans on Tuesday throughout the southern part of the country, which is nearly half of the 1,237 needed to earn the presidential nominee.
“If the people that like and watch NASCAR vote for Donald Trump, they can cancel the election right now,” Trump said during the rally. “Nobody else can win. Nobody.”
Trump sparred controversy in the NASCAR realm last July, just after he announced he would be campaigning for president.
After multiple statements attacking Mexicans in America, Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis pressured NASCAR to move the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series ceremony from the Trump National Doral in Miami. Lemonis wrote a letter, which stated that he did not want to be involved any business with Trump, citing the Republican candidate is “blatantly bigoted and racist.”
There is no place for politics/any political endorsements in any business. Your customers and employees should have their own mind. #period
— Marcus Lemonis (@marcuslemonis) March 1, 2016
“Our company will not stand to support any person or organization that associates with such beliefs, and we feel strongly about distancing ourselves from any negative and discriminatory comments made against any gender, ethnicity, age group or so forth,” Lemonis said in his letter. “I would hope that the entire NASCAR organization would agree with my sentiments.”
However, NASCAR’s stance with Trump has changed recently. Last year, Korbin Forrister had “Trump for President” slapped on his No. 08 truck from late July to late September.
“Mr. Trump is changing American politics forever and his leadership and strength are desperately needed,” France said. “He has had an incredible career and achieved tremendous success. This is what we need for our country.”
Trump’s relationship with NASCAR has been ongoing for over 20 years. In 1996, Trump made a proposal for Trump Motor Speedway in Bridgeport, Conn. Three years later, he made a bid to pay the town of Riverhead (on Long Island) $55 million for a 29-acre piece of land in Calverton. The proposed property site would have included a racetrack, hotel and golf resort. However, Riverhead is on the eastern sector of Long Island in Suffolk County, which according to International Speedway Corporation executives at the time, said it was not feasible due to the location being inconvenient for fans in New Jersey and Connecticut.
Trump also campaigned for a racetrack in Upstate New York in 1999 in the Catskills region.
NASCAR Vice President David Higdon told Yahoo! Sports that it was a “private, personal decision by Brian.”
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