Super Tuesday is here and Donald Trump has kicked his campaign into high gear with new, and to some, surprising, endorsements.
NASCAR's chief executive and four NASCAR drivers joined the billionaire Republican presidential candidate on stage at a rally in Georgia on Monday night. This public stance marks a shift from NASCAR's previous efforts to distance the organization from Mr. Trump following his remarks about Mexican immigrants when he launched his campaign in June.
After Trump kicked off his campaign with a speech labeling Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, rapists and criminals, NASCAR and other companies with a connection to Trump faced pressures to sever those ties. In July, NASCAR obliged by announcing it would no longer hold an awards banquet at the National Doral, a Miami hotel owned by Trump.
But Monday, NASCAR CEO Brian France stood by Trump and called him a winner, reports Politico.
"I've known Donald for over 20 years," Mr. France said from the stage at Valdosta State University. "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."
Bill Elliott, a retired driver who won the Daytona 500 twice, joined France and Trump Monday. Other NASCAR-affiliated endorsements came from drivers Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman, and David Lee Regan.
Trump's original June comments calling for a wall on the border of Mexico and the United States were part of the reason NASCAR initially stepped away from Trump. But as he thanked the five for their endorsements on Monday, Trump said to the audience, "That’s cute. They just said: 'Keep that wall going.' We’re going to keep the wall going. Believe me. Believe me," the Washington Post reports.
Despite this prominent set of endorsements, NASCAR as an organization is not backing "The Donald." NASCAR Vice President David Higdon told Yahoo Sports that the CEO's endorsement was a "private personal decision by Brian."
ESPN reports that Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis, a Lebanese-born entrepreneur told NASCAR last summer that neither he nor any of his employees would attend the banquet of the series he sponsors – the Camping World Truck Series – if it was held at the Trump National Doral Miami resort because of Trump's comments about immigrants.
He offered his view of the NASCAR CEO's support of Trump via Twitter:
The controversy with his former affiliates has not fazed Trump. The Republican presidential candidate is leading polls and has won most of the primaries and caucuses thus far in the race.
As Trump said in a statement following NASCAR's July announcement, "Really? What were the losses? One NASCAR banquet in a magnificent ballroom at Trump National Doral in Miami for which I will keep their very substantial deposit and rent the ballroom to someone else that night – in other words, two fees instead of one (NASCAR has already apologized to me)!"