The start of Sunday's Daytona 500 -- - has been delayed due to light rain in the Daytona Beach area.

According to the National Weather Service, the weather forecast for this afternoon called for an 80 percent chance of rain, reducing to 70 percent at night.

Rain began falling at Daytona International Speedway roughly three hours before the start of the 500 mile race, which had been scheduled for 1:29 p.m. (et). Just after the invocation and the performance of the National Anthem, the rain intensified.

NASCAR and racetrack officials are hopeful the weather will improve later in the day to get the Daytona 500 underway. Lights around the 2.5-mile speedway will allow the event to run at night time if necessary.

"It's one those days here at Daytona where it pops up and falls off, but as the day progress, we think the chances of the pop ups diminish quite a bit. So hopefully this will be the last big cell we see, and things will start falling apart. We can get the track dry and go on and get finished and run the Daytona 500 today," NASCAR president Mike Helton said on FOX Sports television coverage of the race.

The Daytona 500 has never been postponed a day in its 53-year history. It has been shortened in length four times due to inclement weather, most recently in 2009, with Matt Kenseth winning that race.

When the race does start, Carl Edwards will lead the field of 43 cars to the green flag. Edwards won the pole position with a lap at 194.738 m.p.h. during last Sunday's qualifying at Daytona.