Daytona 500 postponed by rain hours after Donald Trump rides around track

By Allen Cone & Connor Grott
Inclement weather postponed the 62nd annual Daytona 500 on Sunday at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Photo by Mike Gentry/UPI
Inclement weather postponed the 62nd annual Daytona 500 on Sunday at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Photo by Mike Gentry/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The 62nd running of the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Fla., was postponed Sunday because of rain, putting a damper on a race day that included President Donald Trump taking a spin around the track in his limousine.

The race will resume at 4 p.m. EST Monday after only 20 laps were run. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who started from the pole, was the race leader when the action was stopped.


The scheduled start at Daytona International Speedway was delayed 62 minutes because of a storm system that hit the track during the pace laps. NASCAR made an attempt to bring drivers back to their cars about 6:30 p.m., but another round of showers hit the area, preventing the race from continuing.

Trump served as the grand marshal for the race.

"We love our country and it's truly an honor to be with you," Trump said in front of the sold-out 100,000-seat grandstand and thousands more in the infield, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump.

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And then he proclaimed: "Gentlemen: Start your engines."

Two presidential limousines participated in the 2 1/2-mile pace lap with two official pace cars and the 40 race cars. But the race was delayed by rain for more than one hour and drivers got out of their cars. The green flag was waved at 4:19 p.m., but 15 minutes later rain halted the race.

By then the president and his entourage were gone.

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"POTUS motorcade began rolling from the Daytona speedway at 3:41 pm, this time taking a tunnel underneath the track to exit," Michael Wilner, a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, wrote in a White House pool report.

Trump boarded Air Force One just before 4 p.m. and headed back to Washington, D.C. The first lady was not with him, according to the pool report.


"It was fantastic. Incredible day. Incredible people," he told Wilner.

Trump was the second sitting U.S. president to attend a Daytona 500 and the first to have a role in the prerace festivities. Former President George W. Bush attended the 2004 Daytona 500.

"It is a patriotic type of thing," Trump said about Daytona 500, which is known as the "Great American Race," during an interview on Fox TV before the race. "We love NASCAR and the people of NASCAR."

The Trumps emerged from their limousine on the track. They stood for God Bless America and the Star-Spangled Banner, which included a flyover six F-16s by the Air Force Thunderbirds.

The motorcade earlier entered the track, making roughly a quarter-lap before pulling aside. Greeters included Jim France and Lesa France Kennedy, co-owners of NASCAR.

Air Force One arrived at 1:04 p.m. at Daytona Beach International Airport, according to White House pool reports. Guests aboard included Donald Trump Jr. and Brian France, former CEO of NASCAR, on the flight from West Palm Beach. Trump had spent the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago private club in Palm Beach.


The plane performed a dramatic flyover, shown live on Fox, turning sharply over the speedway at a low altitude. Later, the Trumps toured the track in a 22,000-pound Cadillac, known as "The Beast."

NASCAR announced Thursday that reserved tickets for the 62nd annual Daytona 500 were sold out for the fifth consecutive year. The crowd might diminish somewhat with the postponement.

Reigning champion Denny Hamlin qualified 21st, but was the favorite.

"We've been very fortunate in the last eight to 10 years to be in contention for a lot of these Daytona 500s," Hamlin said of his team Wednesday at Daytona 500 media day. "Hopefully, we are able to miss [wrecks] again this year."

Stenhouse Jr. won the pole for the season-opening race, turning in a 194.582-mph lap one week ago Sunday during qualifying. Alex Bowman started next to him on the front row.

The order for the rest of the 20-row field was determined during two more qualifying races Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.

Joey Logano claimed the checkered flag at Bluegreen Vacations Duel No. 1 Thursday. William Byron won Bluegreen Vacations Duel No. 2. Logano and Byron earned spots in the second row of the Daytona 500.


"Honestly, the goal is to win," Logano said. "There is really no other goal outside of that. ... This is the biggest race of the year. It means so much to win it. There are so many crazy things that can happen

Kyle Busch, who qualified in the eighth position, had five wins and 17 top-five finishes in 2019.

Jimmie Johnson, 44, is racing in his last Daytona 500 with a sixth-place qualification. He's a two-time champion of the race and seven-time Cup Series champion

Highlights from the 62nd running of the Daytona 500

Highlights from the 62nd running of the Daytona 500
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