Autoweek exclusive: Michael Avenatti says if he can’t drive, he may not run for President in 2020

Mercurial attorney Michael Avenatti takes a back seat to no one, and that might be a problem as he contemplates a run against President Donald Trump in 2020.

Avenatti, 47, is a dedicated automotive enthusiast, car collector and racer, and the idea that the U.S. President must spend his or her career, and beyond, riding in the back seat of a limousine chauffeured by specially trained members of the Secret Service gives him pause.

“As I’ve mentioned before,” Avenatti told Autoweek in an exclusive interview, “I’m seriously considering taking a run at the presidency in 2020, and a big consideration for me is that I could never drive again — a street car, much less a race car. Some people may scoff at that, but it would be a pretty big sacrifice for me. It’s something I really enjoy.”

Outside of legal communities, Avenatti wasn’t well-known until he took on adult film star Stormy Daniels as a client on March 6. His first TV appearance regarding the case, involving an alleged $130,000 payoff to keep Daniels quiet about an affair she says she had with President Trump in 2006, came on March 7. Since then, Avenatti’s star has soared — Google him and you get 4,490,000 hits. Even before that, he had been a thorn in Trump’s side, suing Trump and Mark Burnett, the producer of Trump’s “The Apprentice” TV show, on behalf of a client who said the idea for the show had been stolen from him. The case was settled in 2006.

Avenatti’s love for motorsports began about 1982, he said. “We lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and my father took me to the Pikes Peak Hill Climb — that’s the first memory I have of going to a race. I remember standing alongside the gravel road — it wasn’t paved back then — and watching the action, which was an unbelievable experience when you are 9 or 10 years old. There were no barriers, and we were right by the road as the cars were hanging it out – it was super dangerous but it was a different time back then. That was what really what sparked my interest.”

Soon after, Avenatti’s father took him to some dirt track oval races, “and that further fueled the flame. Then, like a lot of adolescent boys, I became interested in sports cars. Ultimately, I started racing karts, and went to the Skip Barber and Jim Russell racing schools.” His first real taste of competition was in the Barber and Russell open-wheel series.

He moved from the club ranks into pro series, racing in the American Le Mans Series from 2011 to 2013, as well as in Grand-Am in 2012, making his first start in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, competing in a Porsche GT3 for Alex Job Racing.

In 2015, he hit the trifecta for a pro-am sports car racer: The Rolex 24 and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in a Porsche 911 GT America for GB Motorsport and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a JMW Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia. “The highlight so far was racing at Le Mans,” he said, where his team finished seventh in the GTE-Am class. “That was a tremendous experience and I hope to go back someday — I enjoyed it so much.” Since then, Avenatti has had time only to do some club racing, as his legal career began expanding to the point where pro racing was just out of the question, and he hasn’t even had a chance to race anything this year.

“I have a passion for racing,” Avenatti said, “and I’ve had it for decades. If I could do anything professionally — you know, get paid and make a living at it — that’s probably what I’d do.”

Read more about Michael Avenatti's affection for automobiles and racing in the upcoming Nov. 19 issue of Autoweek.

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