Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Picnic Following the Pepsi Firecracker 400 in Daytona Beach, Florida

July 04, 1984

This has been a fantastic Fourth of July. And I've enjoyed certainly everything that I've seen since I've been here. And with the skill and the daring that we witnessed out there, and the pursuit of excellence that those drivers—and I mean all of them that are here—made stock car racing a major American sport. And I know that each of them probably is proud and has every right to be, and we're proud of them.

I want to take a special word to say—or say a special word about Bill France, Sr. Now, Bill France, Jr.—yes, I know what he's done. But I think that—I guess it was Bill, Sr., that got things really started. And then I've heard since I've been here that he's the grand old man of stock car racing. Where do they get this "old man" stuff?. He's only 74. [Laughter] I tell you, the way I read old is, old is 15 years from where you are now. [Laughter] Seriously, to Bill, Sr., and Bill, Jr., they've accomplished so much, and they've added so much pepper to the American scene.

I think I can understand why stock car racing is so popular. Americans have always cherished mobility, and we greatly admire innovation. And by combining man and machine, stock car racing brings out the best of both of these American impulses.

I appreciate all the work that goes into those precision machines also, because it makes you realize that the race is won in the garage as well as on the track. So, congratulations to all of those workers out there that were keeping those competing cars out on the track.

Now, Richard Petty, congratulations, and to all the others, for a demonstration of skill and courage. This race puts the driver to the test. You've got to keep cool under great pressure. I was told that when I was up there watching it. Keeping cool, sitting so close to a hot engine, isn't easy, as I found out when Richard Petty came up and I met him. I thought he'd fallen in someplace on the way. [Laughter]

You need intense concentration and stamina, and it's amazing to see them out there, bumper to bumper at 200 miles an hour. We've all done a little bumper-to-bumper driving. I know—you have to, if you live in Los Angeles with the freeways, but you're not going quite that fast.

So, Richard Petty, your victory is something for which you and those who work with you can rightfully be proud. I know how you all feel, too, because I'm in a little race myself this year. [Laughter]

But to be a little serious, today we're celebrating our country's independence and freedom. Our Founding Fathers gave us a wonderful gift 208 years ago—a free country, a country where no one need live in fear and where everyone can speak and pray and live as he or she sees fit. As we commemorate our country's birth and its freedom, I hope we can take a little while today to breathe a little prayer of thanks for the great blessings that we enjoy in America.

I'm certain that if Jefferson and Adams and Washington were here with us today, they'd be sharing in the festivities. And if Patrick Henry were here, from what I've read about him, he'd have been out on the track with one of the cars. [Laughter] Our Founding Fathers were kind of gutsy, and we'd better not forget that. These patriots and all the others, rich and poor, of every race and religion, who worked and struggled and sometimes fought and died for our freedom, are with us in spirit today.

And, again, I just want to thank you all for letting me spend these few minutes with you. And God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4 p.m. in the infield area of the Daytona International Speedway.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Picnic Following the Pepsi Firecracker 400 in Daytona Beach, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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