- Associated Press - Sunday, February 26, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (AP) - NASCAR postponed the Daytona 500 because of rain, the first time in the 54-year history of the event that it has been delayed a day.

Heavy rain soaked Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, and NASCAR never had a big enough window to dry the track.

Rain saturated the famed speedway, sending fans scattering for cover and leaving everyone in wait-and-see mode. Puddles of water formed in parts of the infield, and many fans got drenched as they tried to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation.

The 500-mile race was rescheduled for noon Monday. It will be aired on Fox.

Carl Edwards, runner-up to Tony Stewart in last year’s championship race, will start from the pole. Former IndyCar star Danica Patrick will make her Daytona 500 debut.

The last shortened Daytona 500 was Matt Kenseth’s 2009 victory, when rain stopped the event 48 laps from the finish. He was declared the winner while the cars were parked on pit road.

The 2010 race had more than two hours in delays as NASCAR twice stopped the event to fix a pesky pothole in the surface. Jamie McMurray held off Earnhardt Jr. to win that race.

This time around, drivers retreated to their motorhomes, relaxing while keeping an eye on developments. Former Daytona 500 winners Jamie McMurray and Trevor Bayne did in-studio interviews with Fox.

“Obviously, you want to go race,” driver AJ Allmendinger said. “We get to race when we race. I know it (stinks) for the people sitting out there because they’ve got to sit in the rain. But for us, we go in here and we have push-up contests, we eat a lot of food and we have a good time.”

Now, NASCAR fans will have to wait an extra day for the sport’s most prestigious event.

This one comes with several intriguing story lines for a racing series trying to capitalize on the success of last season’s captivating championship race.

The Daytona 500 will be the first of 10 scheduled Sprint Cup Series events this season for Patrick, who left IndyCar behind for a full-time move to NASCAR. She will race for the Nationwide Series championship driving for JR Motorsports.

She arrived at the pre-race driver meeting Sunday with three-time NASCAR champion Stewart, the owner of her Cup car. Stewart is trying to snap an 0-for-13 losing streak in NASCAR’s biggest race of the year.

Stewart’s 17 victories at Daytona include everything but the 500, ranking him second on the all-time list behind the late Dale Earnhardt’s 34 wins. Stewart will start third when the race goes green.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., the 2004 Daytona 500 champion, takes a 129-race losing streak into the event. His last victory was in 2008, his first season with powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports.