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Start Your Engines: American Race Cars at the Reagan Library
May 27 – October 23, 2011

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan became the first sitting U.S. President to attend a NASCAR race.  That July, he started the Firecracker 400 at Daytona where he gave the command, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” from aboard Air Force One. Later that day, Air Force One landed at Daytona International Airport behind the speedway in full view of the fans. It was at that race that Richard Petty captured his historic 200th victory.

In honor of President Reagan’s relationship and fascination with race car driving, The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation presents Start Your Engines: American Race Cars at the Reagan Library, on view from May 27 through October 23, 2011.  The exhibit features a wide array of storied vehicles from the history of American auto racing from the 1930s to today, including those from NASCAR and INDY.  Visitors will view historic cars driven by legends such as Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Richard Petty, as well as current cars by racers Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Austin Dillon, who will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut later this year. 
A few exhibit highlights include:

  • Richard Petty’s winning Firecracker 400 Pontiac from the race Ronald Reagan officially started in 1984
  • Dale Earnhardt, Sr.’s #2  Chevy – the car in which he won the 1980 Winston Cup Championship
  • Kurt Busch’s 2011 #22 Auto Club Dodge Charger (show car) which he recently raced in the Auto Club 400 in California, March 2011
  • Jimmie Johnson’s 2007 #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet that he drove at Homestead to clinch his 2nd Championship
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s 2010 #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet Impala
  • Austin Dillon’s 2011 #98 Chevrolet Impala, co-sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Centennial, which will be raced later this year
  • Dan Wheldon’s 2011 #98 INDY car, which will be raced later this year
  • Lyn St. James’ 1989 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe which broke a record for the fastest lap ever driven by a woman on an oval track

In addition to the cars, personal items from drivers like trophies, fire suits, helmets and other artifacts, photos and video will also be on display.

This exhibit is sponsored by the Auto Club of Southern California.
Special thanks to Mike Curb, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Woodland of the Estrella Warbirds Museum and Lyn St. James.


The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation expresses sincere sympathy to the family of Dan Wheldon whose injuries at the IndyCar race on October 16, 2011 in Las Vegas resulted in his tragic death. Dan, a Reagan Foundation supporter, drove the Bryan Herta Autosport and Curb/Agajanian 98 car that won the Indianapolis 500 in May bearing the Reagan Centennial Seal. A wreath has been placed in his honor by his 98 Show Car, which is currently on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

About the Automobile Club of Southern California:
The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest member of the AAA federation of motor clubs, has been serving Southern California since 1900. Today, the Auto Club’s more than six million members benefit by roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services and highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club’s Web site at www.AAA.com.

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