|The crew of David Ragan's number 34 Ford push the car into the garages after NASCAR's Daytona 500 was delayed for rain on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012. (Michael Brown/Reuters)
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. - Inclement weather has again delayed the start of the Daytona 500.
Persistent rain on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway forced the first postponement in the 54-year history of NASCAR's biggest race. The start was rescheduled for noon (et) on Monday, but poor conditions remain in the area and officials will try again at 7 p.m. (et).
"We hope to have 'lady and gentlemen, start your engines,' at 7:02 [p.m. (et)], and then warm up and go to green flag," NASCAR president Mike Helton said during a press conference on Monday morning at Daytona. "We believe this is a reasonable expectation, and we also believe in a modern world with the technology that we have to interpret weather, forecast it and try to stay on top of it within a reasonable amount of time, that having everyone sit around and wait for several hours today up until the point where we're confident or have more confidence that we can run the race was more prudent to do it this way."
According to the National Weather Service, a 30% chance of rain is in the forecast for the Daytona Beach area this evening. Track-drying efforts will begin as soon as the rain stops falling on the 2.5-mile superspeedway. If precipitation continues to be a problem during the evening, the 500-mile race could start later than 7 p.m.
"Obviously, it's going to depend on the other weather conditions, the temperature, the breeze," track president Joie Chitwood said. "We believe it's about a two-hour process to dry the track, but it could take longer. It depends if there's pockets to get the track dry. A lot of other circumstances, but based on the weather, based on NASCAR, we think 7:00 is realistic. We also have some buffer if we had to delay a little longer than that."
Helton noted that NASCAR plans to run the entire 500-mile distance.
When the Daytona 500 does start, Carl Edwards will lead the field of 43 cars to the green flag. Edwards won the pole position for the race with a lap at 194.738 m.p.h. one week ago.
If the race is washed out on Monday, NASCAR will consider running it on Tuesday. However, the next Sprint Cup Series race is scheduled for this Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, which is located roughly 2,200 miles away from Daytona. Practice at Phoenix is slated for Friday.
"We're focused on today and this afternoon right now, but just so everyone knows, Tuesday is an option before we'd have to reconsider packing up and leaving," Helton said.