Persistent heavy rain in North Carolina has forced the overnight postponement of this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, the Bank of America 500.

The race had been scheduled to be held as a night race beginning on Saturday at 7pm local time (midnight BST) at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but poor weather that had lasted for much of the day failed to break in time to allow the race to be held.

Although NASCAR has brought its revolutionary Air Titan track dryers to this week's event, the chill of night combined with high humidity meant that even when the rain started to lighten up and change to drizzle and intermittent showers it would still have taken too long to get the 1.5-mile oval back into race-worthy conditions.

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Instead, the race will now be held at 12.30pm local time on Sunday afternoon when forecast is much improved, with a predicted high of 21 degrees Celsius and little chance of any rain.

It's only the seventh race of the year to have been impacted by a weather delay of any kind. Previously the Atlanta race in March, the Bristol race in April, the Richmond race in April, the Kansas race in May, the Michigan race in June and the summer race at Daytona were all affected by inclement conditions and forced into delays of varying degrees.

When today's race does go green, Joe Gibbs Racing's Matt Kenseth will start from pole position with his team mate Kyle Busch alongside him, followed by Penske's Joey Logano and Roush Fenway Racing's Denny Hamlin.

This week is the first race in the second stage of the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, the ten-even playoffs that decide who will win this year's title.

The Chase is split into three rounds of three races at the end of each of which the four lowest-scoring drivers from the original 16-strong line-up are eliminated. That leaves four drivers still in contention going into the season finale at Homestead-Miami on Sunday November 22 for a winner-take-all decider.

At the end of the first round, six-time champion Jimmie Johnson was a shock casualty after suffering a technical failure on his Hendrick Motorsports #48 at Dover International Speedway; the other drivers cut from the line-up were Paul Menard (Richard Childress Racing), Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing) and Clint Bowyer (Michael Waltrip Racing)

Reigning champion Kevin Harvick had looked certain to be eliminated, but winning last week's race gave the Stewart-Haas Racing driver a get-out-of-jail-free card and automatic progression to the so-called Contender Round where the remaining 12 drivers compete at Charlotte, Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. All of the contenders have been reset on equal points meaning that no one has any advantage over the others regardless of their form over the season up to this point.

The drivers still in the running for this year's championship are Kenseth, Logano, Hamlin, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch (SHR), Carl Edwards (JGR), Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing), Jeff Gordon (Hendrick), Brad Keselowski (Penske), Ryan Newman (RCR) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick).

No drivers face elimination after today's race, relieving some of the high tension that dominated the race seven days ago at Dover. However one of the 12 contenders could immediately guarantee his place in the final part of the Chase - the Eliminator Round - if they were to be first across the line at Charlotte this afternoon.

See full NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying results from Charlotte Motor Speedway

See full times from the two Friday practice sessions.