*Did you know that Donald Trump was selected to be the celebrity pace car driver in this year’s Indy 500 centennial celebration? Well, he’ll actually be driving the day before on May 29.
But since he went and created a stir by questioning whether President Obama was born outside the United States and whether he was qualified to attend the Ivy League schools, racing fans, local citizens and an Indiana state lawmaker want to force Trump out of the position
“To me, when they first named Donald Trump, it just felt wrong,” said Michael Wallack, who started a Facebook page in hopes of firing Trump. “He has no relationship to the track, to the race, to racing, to Indianapolis, and I think I would have been bothered anytime with something like that. But to do that on the 100th anniversary, it made no sense.
“Then when he started going off on the birther stuff,” Wallack told The AP, “that prompted me to do more and that’s when I started the page.”
Trump, who is known for not being able to handle criticism, didn’t respond himself, but put his mouthpieces into action.
“The debate stems from unfounded, incorrect and malicious lies that Donald Trump has a racial bias toward the President,” said Michael Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel to Trump. “Nothing could be further from the truth, as Donald Trump doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.
“Mr. Trump’s request for President Obama’s birth certificate, school records and documents were predicated upon transparency, a major part of President Obama’s 2008 platform,” Cohen said. “If Mr. Trump should become the next president, he would provide these documents willingly.”
Track spokesman Doug Boles said speedway officials are aware of Wallack’s Facebook page, first reported Wednesday by The Indianapolis Star, and are monitoring the situation.
Changing the pace car driver might be a first.
“As far as I know, the speedway has not changed a pace car driver,” Boles said. “But there’s been a pace car since 1911, so I don’t know if anybody could definitively say it’s not been changed.”
The speedway has a rich tradition of using celebrity pace car drivers from outside auto racing. Since 2000, the list includes actors Anthony Edwards, Jim Caviezel, Morgan Freeman and Josh Duhamel; seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong; supermodel Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp; and “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts. One potential political candidate, retired Gen. Colin Powell, also drove the pace car in 2005.
The race’s reputation has survived other brushes with controversy, including a split between the two major open-wheel series and Steven Tyler’s rendition of the national anthem.
Trump, opponents contend, is more polarizing and might overshadow the race.
“The folks I have talked to indirectly have shared concern with the situation,” said state Rep. Jeb Bardon, a Democrat who represents the area surrounding the racetrack. Bardon said he worries Trump’s appearance will draw negative attention to this month’s centennial celebration.
As far as Trump being the pace driver, it might be a first. According to track spokesman Doug Boles, the speedway has not changed a pace car driver to the best of his knowledge.
But there is a rich tradition, at least since 2000, celebrities have graced the track’s presence by driving the pace car. Among the appearances have been Morgan Freeman and “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts.
But many opponents believe Trump’s appearance will draw negative attention to the celebration.