Citing conflicts with his potential presidential campaign and "business constraints," Donald Trump has pulled out from plans to drive the pace car at this year's Indianapolis 500.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) had been facing pressure to drop Trump from the event.
"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," the IMS said in a press release.
"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 in a statement included in the IMS release.
A Facebook group set up by Indianapolis 500 fans calling on the IMS to "Bump Trump" has attracted more than 17,750 "likes." The page is now filled with celebratory comments like "Trump is out--citing conflicts...LOL! Yeah the conflict was he can't stand to have his enormous ego poked in any way. Here's your'conflict'--we don't want you!"
The page had been set up by Indianapolis attorney Michael Wallack, who said, "I have no problem if Trump dislikes President Obama or his policies. But to step over the line into the realm of conspiracy-mongering is not good for politics or for America. And it should not be rewarded with the honor of driving the pace car at the Indianapolis 500."
Trump had been raising questions about whether President Obama was born in the United States, despite overwhelming evidence that he had indeed been born in Hawaii. He took credit when Mr. Obama released his long-form birth certificate last week.
IMS spokesman Doug Boles told the Indianapolis Star before the announcement that "We are certainly aware of the Facebook page, and we have certainly received complaints. But we have also received comments from other folks in support of Donald Trump driving the pace car."
Trump aide Michael Cohen told the Star after the announcement that the criticism had been politically motivated, pointing to suggestions from local Baptist ministers that Trump's questioning of Mr. Obama's birthplace and educational achievement was racially motivated.
"This debate stems from unfounded, incorrect and malicious lies that Donald Trump has a racial bias toward the president," said Cohen, who also said the complaints came from "a very small number of people who are probably not even Indy 500 fans."
No replacement has been announced to drive the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible that is serving as the pace car.