By Jerry Bonkowski
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – What was supposed to be a historic Daytona 500 for one reason wound up being historic for something entirely different.
Instead of watching Danica Patrick’s Sprint Cup debut on Sunday, we’ll have to wait for that until Monday, as for the first time in its 54-year history, the Great American Race was postponed due to weather.
NASCAR waited more than 3 ½ hours Sunday afternoon, hoping to still get the race in. However, a persistent front of rain that stretched back to Alabama prompted the sanctioning body to pull the plug, even though motion radar indicated that the majority of the storm was heading to the northeast and potentially would have missed the Daytona Beach area.
But given the track needs nearly three hours to be dried out, and that the tail end of the front potentially may not have passed through until perhaps 7 pm ET, a 10 pm ET start time apparently didn’t appeal to either NASCAR or FOX TV.
The rescheduled event begins Monday at Noon ET, with the live telecast again on FOX TV. The broadcast begins exactly at Noon, and the command to start engines will be given one minute later at 12:01 pm ET, according to a NASCAR spokesperson.
“I still plan on winning,” pole-sitter Carl Edwards said with a big smile on his face after the delay was announced. “This is one of the toughest things for us drivers. We planned on getting this race in, and now when you put that off for another day.
“For all of us it’s now who can stay focused. That’s not just the drivers, it’s the pit crews and the officials, but I think we’ll be just fine.
“It’s a pretty good record for NASCAR, 53 years and not having one postponed. They’ve been living good. … NASCAR did everything they could.”
However, NASCAR isn’t entirely out of the woods. There’s roughly a 50 percent chance of more showers during the afternoon.
“I still think this is going to be a very good Daytona 500 and hopefully the weather will hold off so we won’t be in the same position (on Monday),” Edwards said. “About the only thing is that the rain will make the track a little more abrasive to start and we’ll have a competition caution to check the tires, but I don’t think anyone will have an issue.”
Still, Edwards is optimistic that the race will get in on Monday.
“If we were to put this out till Tuesday, that would be real tough,” Edwards said.
But there is one caveat: given the forecast for Monday, there is a possibility that the Noon starting time could ultimately morph into an evening race in prime time, as it may take that long to dry the track.
“That would be pretty neat to run the Daytona 500 under the lights,” Edwards said. “I think the fans will enjoy it.”
Edwards’ Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Greg Biffle, tried to put a positive spin on the postponement.
“This is a tough situation,” Biffle said. “It can always happen. It can snow. It can rain. It can freeze. Anything can happen, but, unfortunately, we’re just going to have to hurry up and wait.
“It’s like watching paint dry because you look out the window and it’s still raining. We’ve waited until Tuesday before – not for the Daytona 500 – but I have a good feeling we’ll have a good enough window tomorrow to get it in.
“I guess I’ll have to wait until 12 o’clock tomorrow and take that green flag. I’m just excited. I’m still on the front row. … I just tweeted that I guess I’m going to have to win the first Monday Daytona 500.”
(For The Sports Xchange)