DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The day race at Daytona International Speedway ended up at night.
And now the night race will go off during the day.
Steady rain forced NASCAR to postpone the Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night. It’s the second race at Daytona this year delayed by rain. The season-opening Daytona 500 was stopped for more than six hours because of rain and ended under the lights.
“We seem to have a little bad luck with the weather,” said Joie Chitwood III, the track president. “We had it in February and we have it right now.”
The Coke Zero 400 will start at 11 a.m. Sunday, about 14 hours after officials postponed the event. The forecast calls for more rain Sunday, but Chitwood said scheduling an early start gives NASCAR a “bigger window of time to get it in.”
The race was supposed to start at 7:57 p.m. Saturday, but showers soaked the 2 ½-mile superspeedway and forced officials to delay the green flag and eventually postpone the race.
This is the fourth Cup race affected by rain this season and the second to be postponed a day. Bristol also was affected by rain, and Texas was delayed a day.
Despite the latest washout, Chitwood does not want the race moved from its traditional Saturday night spot around the July Fourth holiday. The race has been run in that spot for 27 years, and prior to that, it went on the annual holiday itself.
Chitwood was reminded of what a rain-free event looked like as he watched a replay of last year’s Coke Zero 400 during Saturday’s delay.
“The crowd was fantastic and the weather was good and we gave the fans a heck of a show,” he said. “I think July Fourth weekend is a great time.”
Qualifying tweaks coming?
That strange qualifying session at Daytona International Speedway might end up being a one-time thing.
NASCAR executive Robin Pemberton said rules could be tweaked to prevent teams from trying to scheme ways to post the fastest laps during the three knockout stages.
“I think we’ll learn from all of this moving forward and continue to talk and see if there’s anything that we need to look at to try to make things better for the fans and better for the competitors,” said Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition. “All in all, it’s been a great year for qualifying and it’s been a great year for a lot of different rule changes that we put into play this year.
“We’ll sit down and we’ll talk about some of these things toward the latter stages of the year and see what we may rub on and do a little changing or some things like that.”
NASCAR’s new qualifying rules package was used for the first time at Daytona in the Sprint Cup Series on Friday, and it produced some head-scratching moments as groups of cars slowed to a crawl around the 2 1/2-mile superspeedway. The small packs — most of them formed by teammates — were hoping to pull behind bigger groups and draft behind them to produce fast laps. But no one was eager to lead the way, especially not in a huge cluster of cars.
Driver reaction was mostly negative, with pole-sitter David Gilliland dubbing it “uncontrolled chaos” and defending Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. calling it “a mess” and “the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”
It was relatively risky, too. Several cars turned down pit road to elude the disorder. But the most common concern was the speed differences, with some drafting partners creeping along while others ran full speed.
“It was really wild and it was pretty dangerous,” driver Matt Kenseth said. “There’s car doing 80 (mpg) and there were cars doing 200 and nobody wanted to go. Everybody wanted to be in the back of the pack and try to catch the front to get a (fast) lap, so it was pretty chaotic.”