DAYTONA – So much for that earlier forecast of threat of showers for the 56th running of the Daytona 500.
Threat turned to reality on the 37th lap when a rare February Florida thunderstorm insinuated itself in the enjoyment of hundreds of thousands of fans at the Daytona International Speedway.
Kyle Busch was in the lead when the skies opened up sending cars to the pits, crews to cover and fans to fend for themselves.
As much as can be said about the Speedway, the grandstand floors are made of wooden planks in many of the older sections. That means gaps between seams which means little to no protection from dripping during a downpour.
And boy did it do that.
Umbrellas are not allowed on the premises so it was ponchos or nothing. So many, myself included, sidled up to any small relatively dry piece of real estate we could find while we waited for the storm to pass. Which it didn't.
Finally after nearly an hour, we bolted for the bus pickup areas where similarly inclined thousands sought shelter from the storm. Soaked to the skin by then, our only saving grace was the fact that it wasn't a cold rain and that track authorities had the presence of mind to have 300 busses on hand to transport fans.
A disappointing day in that I didn't get to see much racing? Sure but all in all a first that I am eager to replicate as soon as possible.
It is race day for the Daytona 500. Looks as though the weather is going to cooperate for today's running of the legendary launch to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Saturday's Nationwide 300 mile event was contested under cloudy skies with light wind, today's forecast is for more of the same but with a diminished threat of showers.
Daytona International Speedway employs the latest track drying machinery and technology so even a brief downpour can be quickly mediated, at least on the racing surface, so the expected 250,000 patrons will get their money's worth come what may.
That includes their first look at a car sporting the legendary #3 of the late Dale Earnhardt. Shelved for the last 13 years in his homage, his one time team owner Richard Childress has brought it out of retirement with the Earnhardt family's consent, to grace the car of his grandson, Austin Dillon. As fate would have it, Dillon will start on the pole for today's race, and though the Chevrolet will only be gowned in a partial black motif, white being the contrasting color, the sight of the venerated number is sure to generate waves of emotion when it makes its first pass on the parade lap.
We will have more for you from Daytona International Speedway as the day progresses.