Rain continues to affect the 54th running of the Daytona 500, with NASCAR forced to push back the scheduled Monday start time to 7pm ET (midnight GMT) at the earliest.
“We believe this is a reasonable expectation,” said NASCAR President Mike Helton, pointing to a number of forecasts that suggest that the rain is likely to clear up this evening after dark.
When storms forced NASCAR to postpone the race on Sunday for the first time in its history, the original hope was to get underway at noon on Monday. But continued persistent rain has made that impossible, and NASCAR have bowed to the reality of the situation and announced that the race will now not start until the evening.
"[Rather than] 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, [it] was more prudent to do it this way," said Helton.
The 7pm start time is a "best guess" at this point and it could be later if the rain is slow in clearing up or the track takes longer to dry off. The US broadcasters of the race, Fox Sports, are committed to showing the race live no matter what time it starts.
Everyone is fervently hoping that the race will run tonight and not roll over a second day but Helton confirmed that "Tuesday is an option before we'd have to reconsider packing up and leaving," even though "We're focused on today right now."
"We'll wait until the last possible minute that we would not run the race,” added the president of Dayton International Speedway, Joie Chitwood III. “We want to exhaust every opportunity of getting the track dry and running the race.”
There is considerable pressure to get the race run today, and not just because of the escalating costs of opening the Speedway and bringing in staff for a second extra day if the race is forced to roll over to Tuesday.
The biggest headache for NASCAR itself is getting teams and equipment across country to Arizona for next weekend's race at Phoenix. The haulers take two days just to make the distance and that's not including packing and setting-up time, and Nationwide and Sprint Cars are due on track early on Friday for the weekend's race activities.