NASCAR says weather forecasts showed an improved chance of a dry window to get the race completed if it is run under the lights, explaining its decision to delay the start of the Daytona 500 until 7 p.m. Eastern time on Monday.
Despite a dry early morning in Daytona, rain returned at around 9 a.m. and is expected to continue into the afternoon. Rather than making fans wait in vain for hours, NASCAR also pinned its hopes on getting the first Monday Daytona 500 in history to run in a more favorable schedule than when it was initially planned for noon. Weather permitting, the new start time could boost TV ratings for the rain-delayed event and even give attendance figures a push for those fans still around the Daytona area.
"We believe this is a reasonable expectation," said NASCAR President Mike Helton. "We also believe, in the modern world, with the technology that we have to interpret weather, forecast it and try to stay on top of it in a reasonable amount of time, that having everyone sit around and wait for several hours up until a point we have more confidence that we can run the race. It was more prudent to do it this way."
Although NASCAR hopes to get the race to run its full distance, once the field completes 101 laps the race could be called official. This year there's a $200,000 bonus for the driver leading the race at the halfway mark.
The Daytona 500 was scheduled a week later than usual this season in order to prevent a possible clash with the NFL's Superbowl.