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Daytona 500 weather forecast: could rain force postponement?

There is a big chance that heavy rain or thunderstorms could force the delay or postponement of Daytona 500 on Sunday.

Daytona 500 weather forecast: could rain force postponement?
Jared C. Tilton AFP

Heavy rain has already played a big part at Daytona weekend and could force a delay to Sunday’s Daytona 500 as the 40 drivers prepare for the 63rd edition of the Great American Race at the International Speedway circuit in Daytona Beach.

The first of the qualifying duels went ahead without a hitch on Thursday evening. However the second duel, which was scheduled to start at 8:45pm ET, had to be postponed for two hours and 45 minutes after heavy rainfall.

After the track was sufficiently dried, Duel 2, which determines the outside row for Daytona 500, got underway around 11.30 pm ET, with Austin Dillon (No. 3 Richard Childress Racing) winning that second race to secure his No. 4 starting position on Sunday.

Duel 1, which established the inside row of the race, was won by Aric Almirola (No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing), who will take third place on the grid after Hendrick Motorsports pair Alex Bowman (No. 48) and William Byron (No. 24) secured the pole and No. 2 position, respectively, in Phase 1 of qualifying on Wednesday.

Bowman, however, appeared to have problems with his Chevrolet engine during Duel 1, and if it has to be replaced the Arizona driver will be forced to start from the back of the field. And he may not be the only one currently scheduled to start at the front of the grid that may be forced to drop back due to car or engine changes.

NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #2 at DaytonaDAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 11: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #2 at Daytona International Speedway on February 11, 2021 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/AFP == FOR NEWSPAPERS, INTERNET, TELCOS & TELEVISION USE ONLY ==

Heavy rain forecasted for Daytona 500

But car and engine trouble will not be the only concern for drivers on Sunday, as heavy rain could force Daytona 500 to be rescheduled.

According to the current forecast by Weather Underground, there is between a 70-84% percent chance of rain around the time the race is scheduled to start at 2.30pm, with a serious threat of thunderstorms at that time.

The forecast doesn’t look much better for the proceeding hours, until the chance of rain falls to 31% around 7pm, with Weather Underground predicting isolated thunderstorms at this point. If the rain persists, however, and does not allow for sufficient track drying, organizers could be forced to move the Great American Race to Monday – something which has only happened twice in its 63-year history.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 11: Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #2 at Daytona International Speedway on February 11, 2021 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Chris Graythen/Getty Images/AFP == FOR NEWSPAPERS, INTERNET, TELCOS & TELEVISION USE ONLY ==

Rain forced Daytona 500 suspension in 2012 and 2020

There have been a couple incidents over the years where rain has forced a delay or shortened the Daytona 500 race. But only on two occasions has the weather prevented the field from taking the green flag on the appointed day – in 2012 and 2020.

Last year’s race was postponed after two lengthy delays totaling more than three hours, which forced the race to be moved to 4pm on Monday, 17 February. The first of the delays occurred just moments after Donald Trump’s presidential motorcade completed a ceremonial parade lap around the 2 1/2-mile track. Denny Hamlin eventually went on to win the 62nd Daytona 500 after leading the race for 79 of the 209 laps.