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NASCAR delays Daytona 500 for the first time in history (UPDATES)

Postponed because of heavy rain, the start of the race has been moved to 7 p.m. Monday evening.

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A crew member works on a rainy Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Rain delayed the Daytona 500 for the first time in history. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

Rain delayed the Daytona 500 for the first time in the race's 54-year history, pushing the iconic race from Sunday as it has been run for 53 years until Monday.

"NASCAR officials spent more than four hours waiting for a window to dry the famed track, but it never came," the Associated Press said. "When the latest storm cell passed over the speedway around 5 p.m., they had little choice but to call it a day." 

On Monday morning, NASCAR President Mike Helton announced the race would begin on Monday evening, weather permitting.

"We hope to have 'Lady and gentlemen, start your engines,' at 7:02 and then warm up and go to green flag," he said, according to the AP. "We believe this is a reasonable expectation." (The 'lady' in that announcement is former IndyCar driver Danica Patrick, who's making her Daytona debut.)

The race was scheduled for 1 p.m. Eastern Sunday. Rain initially pushed back the race's start time, but by the time crews dried the track and readied it for racing the rain began falling again. 

Zap2it.com noted it takes about two hours to dry the 2.5-mile track at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida. 

The Daytona speedway is equipped with 10 jet dryers and keeps 3,500 pounds of jet fuel to power on-site

"As pre-race festivities concluded, the heaviest rain of the day moved in, undoing the work the dryers had already done," NASCAR said.

While the Daytona 500 has faced rain delays of up to a few hours, officials have never had to postpone the event.

"Bored drivers spent Sunday loitering around the motorhome lot, playing with their children and expressing their frustration with the rain on Twitter," weather.com said

The Monday night start is not a sure thing, officials said. With meterologists forecasting a chance of rain continuing into the evening, Helton said NASCAR might push the event to Tuesday, USA Today reported.

More from GlobalPost: NASCAR Daytona 500 a key campaign stop for GOP candidates

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120226/nascar-delays-daytona-500