Daytona 500: Donald Trump's 'Civilian' Flub Before Race Stirred Opinions on Social Media

During President Donald Trump's Daytona 500 pre-race interview with Fox Sports, Trump noted that the previous four times he attended the race, it was as a "civilian." Since the president is still a civilian, although no longer a private citizen, the remark puzzled viewers at home. Trump attended the race, along with First Lady Melania Trump, to serve as grand marshal.

"It really is the great American race and I look at this as almost a patriotism kind of thing," Trump told the Fox Sports reporter when asked why he was attending the race. "It's incredible. The people are incredible. We love the area. We love this state and it's very exciting."

He later pointed out he attended the race "four times before, as a civilian and now I'm in a different capacity," adding, "We love NASCAR and we love the people of NASCAR."

Although the President is the Commander in Chief, it is still a civilian office, not a military one. The U.S. Constitution specifically outlines civilian control of the military. That is why it is Congress' duties to "raise and support Armies" and to "provide and maintain a Navy," and only Congress can issue a formal declaration of war. As for the president, the person holding the office "shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States when called into the actual Service of the United States."

Later in his interview Sunday, Trump praised the "bravery" of NASCAR drivers.

"They do all the safety things and everything," the president said. "It takes great courage. It's the speed. It's really the technology. You look at what's happened just over the last 10 years with the cars. I love to see it. I love to watch it."

Trump also delivered a short speech before telling the drivers to "start your engines." The presidential limousine, also known as "The Beast," did a lap around the Daytona International Speedway ahead of the pace car during the first lap.


Photo credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images