Many people don’t realize this, but when the July race was first formed for the Daytona International Speedway, the event was supposed to be an open wheel event. Yes, the stars of the Indianapolis 500 were supposed to race at the high banked 2.5-mile oval on July 4th beginning in 1959.
Unfortunately, they quickly saw the consequences of that decision, and decided to make a second NASCAR race at Daytona instead, as its been that way ever since.
From 1959-1997, the race was run early in the day, as the start time ranged from 10-11 a.m. ET. NASCAR wanted to get the race in before the daily afternoon storm chances grew as they figured by starting that early, they can get the 400-mile race run to completion before rain would affect the race.
Well, when lights were installed and the race was moved to night in 1998, they began tempting fate. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the affects of this move the last few years.
For those that have never been to Florida in July, the heat and humidity mixed with all the water in the state propels late day thunderstorms. It’s a daily occurrence. They’re usually quick rain bursts and pop up late in the afternoon. Sometimes they move out quicker than they formed but other times as we’ve seen in the last two Coke Zero 400s, they can tend to linger.
Will that happen this year?
At the moment there’s a 50-percent chance of rain on Saturday in Daytona, but no one really knows what to expect until the day of the race. Will it rain for a third straight year or will we luck out?
Last year, the rain stayed long enough to delay the green flag until nearly 11:45 p.m. ET. The race didn’t end until 2:45 a.m. the next day.
Then, the year before, the race was completely washed out on the scheduled date and postponed to a day time race on Sunday afternoon. Like clockwork, afternoon storms popped up ending the race shortly past the halfway mark.
We also saw a rain delay in 2010 to give us three rain affected Coke Zero 400’s in the last six years.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love that this race is a night time event as it really separates itself from the Daytona 500. Plus, seeing cars at these speeds in a pack at night is one of the coolest things a fan can witness. But, by doing this, we’re just tempting fate as rain could postpone the start on any given year.
Hopefully that doesn’t happen this year.