NASCAR and Donald Trump: Why the presidential candidate is attending Coca-Cola 600 race

Mary Ramsey, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former President Donald Trump will signal the importance of North Carolina in the 2024 election when he returns to the Charlotte area Sunday for the Coca-Cola 600, political experts say.

It will be the first time a sitting or former president has taken in a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. The visit coincides with the state Republican Party annual convention in Greensboro over the weekend, though it’s unclear if Trump plans to visit the convention.

It’s not the first time Trump’s gone to a major sports event or the first time NASCAR has been caught up in politics. Its fan base is one that has long been perceived as conservative-leaning and that candidates have tried to woo. That includes the former president, who has forged relationships with some of NASCAR’s biggest names and waded into past controversies in the sport. However, the sport has tried to distance itself from politics in recent years.

Those realities and the significance of North Carolina as a swing state this election cycle make Sunday a prime opportunity for Trump to get the attention of voters he needs, experts say. Trump posted his narrowest win over President Joe Biden in 2020 in the state.

“It’s a great visibility thing,” said Republican strategist Larry Shaheen.

Political history with NASCAR


Trump’s relationship with NASCAR is not new.

Then-NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France endorsed him in 2016 at a rally alongside Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and drivers Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman and David Ragan. Following in the footsteps of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, Trump served as grand marshal of the Daytona 500 while running for reelection in 2020.

The connection between the sport and the president became more complicated later in 2020, when Trump referred to driver Bubba Wallace’s allegation that a noose was hung in his garage stall at a speedway in Alabama as a “hoax” and said Wallace, who is Black, should apologize. An investigation into Wallace’s claim found that the rope had hung in the stall for years, but NASCAR president Steve Phelps rejected the idea the initial allegation was part of a “hoax.”

After the Wallace incident, the widespread racial justice protests of 2020 and the rise of the anti-Biden “Let’s Go Brandon” chant at races, NASCAR banned displays of the Confederate flag at events and most political sponsorships.


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