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Daytona 500 start delayed to Monday night following further rain

Rain delays Daytona 500 runningNASCAR officials have pushed back the start of the Daytona 500 to Monday night.

NASCAR president Mike Helton announced this morning that the new starting time for the Sprint Cup Series season-opener will be 7pm US Eastern Time.

Despite a dry early morning in Daytona, rain returned at around 9am and is expected to continue into the afternoon.

Weather forecasts also showed an improved chance of a dry window to get the race completed towards the evening, under the lights.

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 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 US$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.

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