Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Rain postpones NASCAR's Daytona 500 until Monday

DAYTONA BEACH — NASCAR's marquee event and one of racing's most highly anticipated debuts will have to wait.

Steady showers on Sunday postponed the 54th Daytona 500 by a day for the first time in race history. The season opener — and the Sprint Cup debut of former IndyCar star Danica Patrick — is scheduled to start at noon today and will be televised on Fox (Ch. 13).

But the radar doesn't look much better. The National Weather Service forecasts a 70 percent chance of rain with a possible thunderstorm today.

"Awesome," pole-sitter Carl Edwards said sarcastically.

Weather has shortened the Great American Race four times, including in 2003 when Michael Waltrip won and in Matt Kenseth's 2009 victory. NASCAR also started the race under yellow because of rain in 1963 and 1979.

But the elements had never postponed its start or pushed its finish back a day.

"I didn't know when to eat," said veteran driver Bobby Labonte, who kept his racing gear on all day in case the skies cleared. "I didn't know when to rest. I didn't know when to do whatever."

Mist hung over the 2½-mile tri-oval in the morning as fans streamed in, and rain fell at 1:29 p.m. when WWE wrestler John Cena was scheduled to wave the green flag. Drivers stood under umbrellas with their teams, and black covers blanketed their cars on pit road.

As the afternoon wore on and drivers disappeared to their trailers, the only action near the track came from seagulls waddling through infield puddles and poncho-clad fans buzzing under the grandstands.

"It's like watching paint dry because you look out the window and it's still raining," said Greg Biffle, who will start the race on the outside of Row 1.

Racers and crews passed the time in different ways. Patrick darted between media and sponsor obligations. Last year's winner, Trevor Bayne, wore a flannel shirt as a guest analyst on Fox.

Mark Martin napped. A member of Jimmie Johnson's crew watched highlights of the NFL combine. Edwards watched professional bowling on TV.

"I got into that a little bit," Edwards said.

Showers let up around 3:30, and 10 trucks equipped with powerful jet dryers circled the track for an hour and a half to try to dry the superspeedway. But when sprinkles fell harder shortly after 5, the track grew damp again, and NASCAR parked those vehicles, too.

"A long day," track president and Tampa native Joie Chitwood III said. "We attempted our best to try to get the track dry. It seemed like every time we got close, a pocket of rain showed up."

NASCAR will honor Sunday's tickets today, and other tickets will be on sale at the gate or at the speedway's ticket office. If rain persists, Chitwood said officials likely will wait until early evening before thinking about postponing it again and exploring its next options.

"I don't even want to talk about Tuesday right now," Chitwood said.

Drivers and crews don't expect the rain to make any major changes to the track, but the delay will cause plenty of other problems. Logistical issues could arise because teams have less time to transport their equipment 2,200 miles to the next race in Phoenix, six days away.

And everyone must adjust mentally after being geared up for NASCAR's biggest race but leaving the track without circling it once.

"Now when you put that off for another day, for all of us, it's now who can really stay focused," Edwards said. "That's not just drivers. That's the pit crews, crew chiefs, everyone."

REPUBLICAN RACE: Two hopefuls for the Republican presidential nomination had a presence Sunday. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addressed the crowd briefly about an hour before the race. One of his chief rivals, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, sponsored the No. 26 Ford of Tony Raines, which starts 41st.

Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]


Overtime favors Countryside in girls hoops bout with Clearwater

CLEARWATER — Two similarly successful teams in Clearwater and Countryside combined for one exciting game.Facing each other Tuesday night in a brilliant, all-out girls basketball battle, one unfortunate play turned the tide.Leading by two p...
Updated: 3 hours ago
UNC streak over Clemson at 59-0

UNC streak over Clemson at 59-0

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Graduate transfer Cameron Johnson scored a season-high 21 to help No. 15 North Carolina hold off No. 20 Clemson 87-79 on Tuesday night, improving its all-time home record against the Tigers to 59-0. It’s the longest home winning s...
Updated: 3 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 16

Tuesday’s scoreboardGirls soccerLennard 8, Blake 0Osceola 1, Clearwater Central Cath. 0Boys soccerIndian Rocks Chr. 4, Bishop McLaughlin 0
Updated: 4 hours ago

Wednesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballTulsa at Temple6 p.m.ESPNewsVillanova at Georgetown6:30 p.m.FS1Dayton at St. Joseph’s6:30 p.m.CBSSNArkansas at Florida7 p.m.ESPN2; 1250-AMSMU at Wichita State7 p.m.ESPNUAuburn at Alabama7 p.m.SECUSF at East Carolina7 p.m.820-AM...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Celtics, Olympics legend White dies

Celtics, Olympics legend White dies

BOSTON — Basketball Hall of Famer Jo Jo White, a two-time NBA champion with the Celtics and an Olympic gold medalist, died Tuesday. He was 71 and had been battling cancer in recent years, though no cause of death was provided. In a statement, the Cel...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Five straight goals lift Rangers past Flyers

Five straight goals lift Rangers past Flyers

NEW YORK — Rick Nash scored twice while the Rangers notched five straight goals in a 5-1 victory over the Flyers on Tuesday night. Jordan Weal put Philadelphia up 1-0 before Nash, J.T. Miller, Paul Carey and Michael Grabner combined to make it 5-1 by...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Updated: 4 hours ago

Largo rallies past Palm Harbor University 3-2, wins PCAC north

LARGO — Prior to Tuesday night's game against Palm Harbor University, Largo coach Dan Flynn gave his team a pep talk that may have been slightly embellished. He told his team that he talked to fellow coaches, who told him they had little chance...
Updated: 5 hours ago

MAKING NEWSNASSAR VICTIM: ‘YOU ARE A REPULSIVE LIAR’One of the dozens of victims expected to testify at the sentencing hearing of a disgraced former Michigan sports doctor Tuesday described the sexual abuse Larry Nassar inflicted on her as a child an...
Updated: 5 hours ago
A win, a few doubts

A win, a few doubts

MELBOURNE, Australia — One fine match does not make a comeback.Novak Djokovic’s elbow or some other body part may get sore again as the rallies and the serves pile up. His confidence, rattled before he took his involuntary six-month break from the ga...
Updated: 6 hours ago