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The Early Lead
Posted at 10:41 AM ET, 02/27/2012

Daytona 500 start time moved to primetime due to weather

Are you ready for some NASCAR?

You’ll have to wait just a little longer. The weather front that forced the first weather postponement in the 54-year history of the Daytona 500, bumped Monday’s start time back once more. So instead of a racing matinee, the 2012 Sprint Cup Series will get underway in primetime, under the lights at the Daytona International Speedway.

Barring any further developments, the ‘start your engines’ call will come at 7:02 p.m. EST.

“I can’t guarantee you we will start at 7 o’clock, but the chance of starting at 7 o’clock is a whole lot better than at noon,” NASCAR president Mike Helton said at a 10:15 a.m. press conference.

Helton also said Fox is “on board to stay with us” for the live broadcast of the race, but that if rain continues, “Tuesday is an option.”

The 500-mile race was pushed back to noon Monday by rain on Sunday, but showers continued Monday morning, leaving NASCAR officials little choice but to postpone it further.

“I know a lot of race fans are disappointed and a lot of people at home on TV, but we just hope they tune in,” Greg Biffle said.


Jimmie Johnson and his daughter, Genevieve, took shelter from the rain on Sunday at Daytona. (John Raoux - AP)
Carl Edwards, the 2011 runner-up to Tony Stewart, will start from the pole when the green flag drops. Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup Series winner and the defending champion, has never won the Daytona 500, posting an 0-13 career mark despite winning 17 races at the famed track. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will also be looking to snap a lengthy losing streak on Monday night, the 2004 Daytona 500 champion has lost 129 consecutive races.

But all eyes will be on Danica Patrick as she makes her Daytona 500 debut two days after crashing into the wall during Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.

Weather forecasts show thunderstorms dissipating by early evening, but it remains to be seen how quickly officials will be able to dry the track and get it ready for the race.

“This is one of the toughest things for us drivers,” said Edwards. “It’s now who can really stay focused. That’s not just the drivers, that’s the pit crews, the crew chiefs, everyone, the officials. But I think we’ll be just fine.”

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By  |  10:41 AM ET, 02/27/2012

 
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