Daytona 500 postponed until Monday due to rain

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The Daytona 500 was postponed until 4 p.m. Monday due to inclement weather for just the third time in the illustrious 66-year history of NASCAR’s showcase event.

Sunday morning’s decision signaled that NASCAR officials wanted to avoid fans having to play the waiting game on Florida’s Surf Coast.

Previously, bad weather — including heavy rains or even tornado warnings — had created multiple-hour delays, forced crowds of more than 100,000 to seek shelter, wait out storms and return for the race.

Fans travel long distances in many cases and spend several days in anticipation of the Daytona 500. A postponement could leave their efforts unrewarded. Monday being Presidents’ Day, a national holiday, will help to mitigate the exodus of an expected sell-out crowd.

Sunday’s decision creates the first-ever Monday doubleheader at Daytona International Speedway. The Daytona 500 will run after the NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener set for 11 a.m.

The 4 p.m. weather forecast calls for sunny weather with a 4% chance of rain and 15-mph winds from the north.

The 2012 race was the first Daytona 500 moved to Monday. The race ultimately spread out over three days before Matt Kenseth won in overtime early Tuesday morning. The late finish followed a 7 p.m. Monday start time and two-hour delay after Juan Pablo Montoya hit a jet dryer on Lap 160 during a caution, causing fuel to leak and catch fire.

Bad weather pushed the 2020 Daytona 500 to a Monday holiday finish, this time following hours-long delays. The race ended with Denny Hamlin’s third Daytona 500 win, but is best remembered for Ryan Newman’s terrifying final-lap crash.

The Daytona 500 has a rich history associated with Presidents’ Day weekend and its George Washington’s Birthday holiday predecessor (Feb. 22).

The first Daytona 500 won by Lee Petty in 1959 was actually held on Feb. 22, Driving for Petty Enterprises, Pete Hamilton won the 1970 race on Feb. 22.

But the most famous President s’ Day weekend staging occurred in 1979 when Richard Petty took the checkered flag for his sixth of his record seven wins in the race as an infield fight ensued between Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough.

A final-lap wreck between Donnie Allison and Yarborough led to a heated argument that escalated when Bobby rushed to his brother’s defense in the track infield. A massive TV audience — because a Presidents’ Day weekend storm left tens of millions snowbound after a major storm pounded the Northeast — boosted the sport’s popularity.

More than 15 million viewers tuned in, a record until 2001 when Darrell Waltrip’s maiden Daytona 500 win after 17 tries drew more than 17 million viewers.

Ratings for the Daytona 500 have dipped the past decade. The last six Daytona 500s have drawn 9.2 million viewers or fewer, down from a record 19.355 million during Jimmie Johnson’s 2006 win.

The lowest-rated Daytona 500 followed major weather delays and an early-morning finish.

Michael McDowell’s 2021 win followed a 5-hour, 40-minute weather delay with drivers still having more than 425 miles to go when the race resumed. A TV audience of just 4.908 million tuned in, more than two million fewer than the 7.33 million in 2020 and more than 3 million less than any 500.

But the lengthy 2021 delay did not match a 6-hour, 21-minute delay in 2014. Rain, storms and two tornado warnings preceded Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s second Daytona 500 win. Only 9.3 million viewers watched the sport’s most popular driver reach Victory Lane in the early-morning hours, just the second Daytona 500 from 1979 to 2017 with fewer than 10 million viewers.

Recognizing fan interest, safety and comfort, NASCAR made the latest Monday move with alacrity.

Broadcast networks remain unchanged. FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will call the Xfinity race. Fox, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio then will handle the Daytona 500.

Fans with Saturday grandstand tickets and admission to the Hard Rock Bet Fanzone may attend both the NASCAR Xfinity Series race and the Daytona 500.

Tickets are available for Monday’s event through SeatGeek, NASCAR’s official marketplace of NASCAR.