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Start of Daytona 500 delayed by rain

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff  February 26, 2012 01:15 PM

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. --- The originally scheduled 1:29 p.m. start of the 54th Daytona 500 has been delayed by steady rain fall.

''Obviously, we're in a holding pattern,'' said NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp.

NASCAR's season-opener, which as been rain-delayed and rain-shortened but never rained out, was threatened by a steady band of rain that was tracking from the Gulf of Mexico across the state of Florida toward Daytona Beach, which is located on the Atlantic coastline of the state.

NASCAR president Mike Helton told Fox Sports expressed the hope that, as the system ran its course, that the track could be dried in time to get the race underway.

"It's one of those days here in Daytona where the rain pops up and falls off, pops up and falls off,'' Helton said. "But as the day progresses we think the chances of the pop ups diminish quite a bit, so hopefully this will be the last big cell we see and [rain clouds] will start falling apart and we can get the track dried and go on and get finished and run the Daytona 500 today.''

Helton said the track was properly equipped with enough jet dryers and other machinery to get the track dried as quickly as possible, a process that could take up to two hours.

"[The rain] needs to stop before we can begin the process of drying,'' Helton said. "We are equipped, Daytona International Speedway has about every drying piece of machinery they got across the country here today, because we know the fans at home and the fans here in Daytona want to see this race run and we do, too, so the sooner the better.''

Update, 1:38 p.m. The rain has stopped at Daytona and a fleet of 10 jet dryers have taken the track and begun drying the 2.5-mile trioval.

Update, 1:46 p.m. Jet dryers have ceased operation. It's raining -- hard -- again.

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