Daytona 500 postponed to Monday afternoon following rain delays

NASCAR officials postponed the Daytona 500 to Monday afternoon, following a series of rain delays shortly after President Trump appeared at the race, told drivers to start their engines and rode a ceremonial parade lap in his presidential limousine, "The Beast."

The race will resume Monday at 4 p.m. ET, officials said.

The postponement came after two lengthy delays totaling over three hours. The first delay came moments after Trump's motorcade completed a ceremonial parade lap around the 2 1/2-mile track.

"The Beast" exited the Daytona International Speedway, and the sky opened for a brief shower that forced drivers back to pit road.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. eventually led the field to the green flag and was out front for the first 20 laps before heavier rain soaked a racing surface that could take hours to dry.

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NASCAR called drivers back to their cars around 6:40 p.m. ET, apparently hoping to get more laps in, but the heaviest rain of the day forced a postponement.

The delay undoubtedly dampened the excitement prompted by Trump's dramatic entrance on Air Force One, which performed a flyover and landed just a few hundred yards behind the track. The president's motorcade arrived minutes later to loud cheers. Both entrances were broadcast on giant video boards around the superspeedway.

Trump, serving as the grand marshal for the Daytona 500, became the second-ever president to deliver the Great American Race's iconic command, "Gentlemen, start your engines!"

President Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, giving the instructions "gentlemen, start your engines," before the start of the Daytona 500.

President Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, giving the instructions "gentlemen, start your engines," before the start of the Daytona 500. (AP)

With first lady Melania Trump by his side, Trump addressed the crowd, calling the opener "a legendary display of roaring engines, soaring spirits, and American skills, speed and power that we've been hearing about for so many years."

"For 500 heart-pounding miles, these fierce competitors will chase the checkered flag, fight for the Harley J. Earl trophy and make their play for pure American glory," Trump continued. "That's what it is: pure, American glory."

Secret Service Agents searching fans as they entered the Fan Zone before the Daytona 500.

Secret Service Agents searching fans as they entered the Fan Zone before the Daytona 500. (AP)

Trump and the first lady then got in the limousine and turned a lap. They avoided high-banked turns at Daytona and stayed on the apron through the corners.

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Many NASCAR fans welcomed the president's visit. "Trump 2020" flags flooded the infield, and some fans wore them as capes in the garage area. His appearance created huge lines at entrances, with many people complaining of having to wait hours to get through security.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.