NEW YORK (Reuters) - A.J. Foyt will drive the pace car for this month’s Indianapolis 500, race officials said on Friday after Donald Trump turned down the honor a day earlier because of a possible U.S. presidential run.
The 100th edition of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 will be the 50-year anniversary since Foyt, the event’s first four-time winner, first won at the famed Brickyard.
“A.J. is one of the greatest and most beloved drivers in the 100-year history of the race, a true icon,” Jeff Belskus, chief executive of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said on the speedway’s website.
“I’m one of the millions of Foyt fans worldwide who can’t wait to see A.J. back where he belongs, out in front of the ‘500’ and leading the field to the start.”
The 76-year-old tough as nails Texan has been around nearly as long as the speedway itself, having competed in the Indy 500 as a driver or team owner for 54 years.
He made a record 35 consecutive starts as a driver from 1958-92 and led a record 13 races. He also completed a record 12,272.5 career miles in the race.
Foyt will be a popular choice among American motor racing fans, many of whom objected to Trump’s selection.
A “Dump Trump” campaign to have the U.S. real estate mogul removed as the celebrity pace car driver picked up speed in recent weeks with race fans upset someone with no connection to racing would get the honor on the event’s 100th anniversary.
According to race organizers, Trump turned down the offer and told them that he may soon be announcing his intention to run for the Republican presidential nomination and thought it would be “inappropriate” to drive the pace car.
Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue