UPDATE: Word out of Indianapolis intimates that 4-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt will replace Donald Trump as the pace car driver for the 100th Anniversary Indy 500. Details to come.
"The Donald" is out of the Indianapolis 500.
The pop culture personality and erstwhile real estate tycoon had been scheduled to drive the pace car at the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race at the end of this month. However, today the Indianapolis Motor Speedway released the following statement:
Donald J. Trump today informed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that he may be announcing shortly his intention to run for the office of President of the United States, and therefore he thought it would be inappropriate to drive the Pace Car for the 100th anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29.
"I very much appreciate the honor, but time and business constraints make my appearance there, especially with the necessary practice sessions, impossible to fulfill," Trump said. "I look forward to watching the race from New York."
Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and chief executive officer, noted that he respects Trump's position and appreciated the communication regarding this decision.
"Donald Trump has been very enthusiastic about the '500' from the beginning of our conversations, and I have appreciated the interaction we have had with him and his staff," Belskus said. "From my first conversation, I was impressed by his deep understanding of the event and history, and I thank him for being a true fan."
The driver of the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Pace Car for the May 29 race will be announced later this month.
The carefully-crafted release is widely seen as a "soft landing" for Trump, but it is clear that IMS was eager to back away from the storm created by Trump's bid for the United States presidency. Trump's connections with IZOD, INDYCAR's prime sponsor for its IndyCar Series, are believed to have been the main reason why the star of Celebrity Apprentice was named the pace car driver for the iconic 100th anniversary of America's most storied closed-course motor race.
Trump has been all over the news of late because of his controversial and outspoken support of the "birther" movement - the theory espoused by hard-line right-wing political observers in the Republican Party and Tea Party groups that alleges that US President Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii as his birth certificate states and therefore is ineligible to be President according to Constitutional law.
The backlash from Trump's public appearances and his controversial statements in the media with regards to the birthers and other high-profile topics spurred INDYCAR fans to start Facebook campaigns demanding that Trump abdicate his position as pace car driver, as well as an avalanche of negative postings on the Speedway's official Facebook page.
Fan-supplied suggestions for possible replacements for Trump have included Admiral William McRaven, commander of SEAL Team Six which was responsible for the killing of Osama bin Laden early this week; Alex Zanardi, former Champ Car and Formula 1 star; A.J. Foyt, four-time winner of the Indy 500 and INDYCAR legend; and others.