Daytona race postponed until Sunday

Daytona rain Patrick Smith/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Thunderstorms and persistent rains forced NASCAR to postpone the Sprint Cup's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night.

The race now is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday with David Gilliland starting from the pole. However, more rain is in the forecast.

Normal afternoon showers began buffeting the 2.5-mile facility at midafternoon on Saturday, but a large system hunkered before the scheduled 7:57 p.m. start. Track officials attempted to dry the facility even as rain continued until an official postponement was made just before 9 p.m. ET.

Track president Joie Chitwood said a decision had to be made at that time because at least an hour and 45 minutes would be needed for jet dryers and Air Titan systems to recover the racing surface. An 11 p.m. ET start would have produced a finish after 2 a.m. and would not been conducive to public safety, he said.

"We didn't think it would get this bad this long," Chitwood said.

Rain continues to be a major inconvenience for both NASCAR and Daytona, as the season-opening Daytona 500 was delayed by more than six hours, and three other events this season were impacted by weather, including a one-day postponement at Texas Motor Speedway in April.

Weather even infiltrated NASCAR chairman Brian France's midseason media address during a query about flat television ratings.

"Well, they're down for obvious reasons," he said. "You have a very low number at Daytona simply because of running the entire day and not finishing in the evening and then lots of rain and lots of World Cup competition and other things."