DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR and its teams are in a bit of a pickle.
Rain already forced the postponement of the Daytona 500 – the first time the race has been delayed in its 54-year history – until Monday at 7 p.m. ET. However, Monday's forecast is not looking good, with cloud cover still in the area and slight rain still persisting. And while Tuesday's forecast looks better, the Sprint Cup Series is scheduled to roll into Phoenix International Raceway Thursday afternoon, which will put the sport and its teams in a very tight time crunch.
"Better than not racing at all," Brad Keselowski told Yahoo! Sports Sunday night. "Hell, we're a moving circus 24-7. We'll figure it out. It will be tough. Yes, some people will have to make some changes, but we'll make it happen."
Officials worked to dry the track throughout the afternoon on Sunday, but rain continued to fall. When a shower hit at 5:15 p.m. ET, NASCAR and track officials decided to postpone the race until Monday. Radar showed a potential window of precipitation-free weather around 8 p.m., which, after drying the track, could have allowed the race to begin around 11 p.m. But track president Joie Chitwood said that was too late to start the race.
"The Daytona 500 typically averages about 3 hours and 45 minutes," Chitwood explained. "So if you started the race at 10 p.m., that would put you at about a 1:45 a.m. finish. Then you have to think about the couple hours it would take to send all our customers home. I'm not really sure that's the environment we want to do that."
While a much smaller crowd is expected Monday, the infield camping ground in Turns 3 and 4 was still quite full despite yet another ominous forecast, which calls for showers through mid-afternoon.
Teams are now scrambling on how to get equipment from headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., to Phoenix – a 36-hour trek – by Thursday.
"If we were to put this out until Tuesday then it would be real tough but I am sure it will be fine," Daytona 500 polesitter Carl Edwards said. "We have guys that can do it."
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- Joie Chitwood