Daytona 500 Start Pushed Back Until 7 p.m. as Rain Soaks Track

Nascar further delayed the start of its season-opening Daytona 500 race until 7 p.m. local time today as rain continued to fall on the track.

The race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, was originally postponed until noon today after rain wiped out yesterday’s planned start. It’s the first time the race has been postponed by weather in its 54-year history.

Nascar disclosed the latest delay on its website.

“This doesn’t do us any good,” Robin Pemberton, Nascar’s vice president of competition, told ESPN after the race was postponed yesterday following a delay of more than three hours. “There could be a setback for ratings reasons, but we’ve got great fans. We’ll overcome like we do everything else that comes across us. We’ll hope for the best and move forward.”

The Daytona 500 was shortened because of rain in 1965, 1966, 2003 and 2009, yet this marked the first time since it was first run in 1959 that the race was pushed back a day because of poor weather.

Nascar used jet dryers yesterday to try to dry the 2.5-mile (4 kilometer) oval track before heavier showers returned later in the afternoon. More rain fell through the evening, ending any chance to run the race under the lights and officials decided to postpone the 200-lap race just after 5 p.m.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Jimmie Johnson, the 2006 Daytona 500 winner and five-time Nascar season champion. “Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do when Mother Nature takes over like this. I’m disappointed for our fan base.”

The race will be televised today on Fox, and Nascar said tickets will be available at the gate or the Daytona ticket office. Carl Edwards is in the pole position with his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle alongside him on the front row.

“I know a lot of race fans are disappointed and a lot of people at home on TV, but I just hope they tune in,” Biffle told ESPN. “It will be a great race.”

Danica Patrick is 29th on the grid in her first start in the race. Trevor Bayne, who won last year at his first attempt a day after his 20th birthday to become the youngest champion, starts in 40th place.

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