Kyle Larson hoping to get the jump on weather and rivals in the Daytona 500

John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Auto Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Trying to figure out who is going to win this year's Daytona 500 is the second-most asked question behind a bigger more prescient one. When will the Daytona 500 be run?

There seems to be little chance the biggest race in NASCAR will go at its scheduled flag drop of 12:11 p.m. PST Sunday because of a persistent and sometimes heavy rain that started Saturday and caused the timing of the Xfinity race to be changed Saturday.

The chance for rain is even greater Sunday, leaving officials the option of trying to wait out the weather until Sunday night or postponing the race until Monday, something that has been done twice before.

Daytona International Speedway is a 2.5-mile superspeedway, meaning that the tires that stock cars use do not have tread because it would slow the cars down and cause the tires to overheat. Driving cars with no tread on a wet surface isn't going to happen. Adding to the complications is that once the racing surface is wet it takes a minimum of 90 minutes to dry.

NASCAR drivers are used to waiting out rain delays, even in the biggest race of the year.

Kyle Larson, the 2021 Cup champion, is among those who have never won the Daytona 500. He is hoping to become the fourth Californian to win the sport's signature race, following in the tires of Jeff Gordon (1997, 1999, 2005), Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2013) and Kevin Harvick (2007). Larson will start 17th in the ninth row. Joey Logano and Michael McDowell will start in the first row.


"We sit there with a lot of rain delays at Daytona," Larson said. "I [spend my time] thinking about what we've done at Daytona. I know we've gotten Chipotle before. We used to have an Xbox [in the trailer], used to play that some. I'm pretty sure I've watched Disney movies [with the kids] during a rain delay."

Larson was close to winning his second championship last year but finished second. He won four races and led 1,127 laps throughout the season, the most of any driver in the series.

"We came up one spot short of winning the championship," Larson said. "It's such a long season, it's tough. We started out the year really strong, running in the front a lot, but other teams progressively got better.

"You just have to hope you develop in the right direction throughout the year but I'm confident in Hendrick Motorsports. We've got the best team that can do it. I just try to keep executing and finish all the races."


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