Daytona 500 – Monday Funday?
Since the first Daytona 500 was run in 1959, the event has had a great record when it comes to dealing with Mother Nature. In fact, most NASCAR events were exempt from precipitation for so long that fans wondered if Bill France Sr. had a special deal with the Lord. A sunny race day was known as “Bill France weather”.
The start of the “Great American Race” has been delayed a few times, but it was not until the 54th running, in 2012, that the event was postponed due to inclement weather. Originally scheduled for a 1 pm start on Sunday, February 26, the race actually got the green flag at a few minutes after 7 pm on Monday the 27th. It was one of the most unusual events ever held at the 2.5 mile facility, since it was red flagged for two hours due to Juan Pablo Montoya sliding into a safety vehicle in Turn 3 during a caution period. The 200 gallons of fuel on board the trucks jet dryer caught fire. Luckily the track surface was not damaged and just before 1 am on Tuesday February 28, Matt Kenseth drove to this second Daytona 500 win.
The first rain delay for the Daytona 500 took place in 1963, but by mid-afternoon the skies had cleared and Tiny Lund went on to his first NASCAR win. The famous “fight” between the Allison brothers and Cale Yarborough came at the end of the rain-delayed 1979 Daytona 500. Sterling Marlin came home the winner in 1995 after rain delays during the race.
A few of the events were shortened by rain, including the 1965 and 1966 versions of the race, which were won by Fred Lorenzen and Richard Petty, respectively. Michael Waltrip picked up his second “500” victory in 2003 after the race ended on lap 109 due to wet weather conditions. The halfway mark of the race, 100 laps, constitutes a complete race.
So, for the most part, the Daytona 500 has had a good record when it comes to completing the event. What we saw in 2012 was a very rare event, indeed.