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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.

Rain could put it all on hold _ and leave NASCAR with a small spotlight.

“It’s one of those days here in Daytona where it pops up and falls off and pops up and falls off,” NASCAR president Mike Helton said. “But as the day progresses, we think the chances of the pop-ups diminish quite a bit. Hopefully this will be the last big cell we see and things will start falling apart and we can get the track dry and go on and get finish and run the Daytona 500 today.”

The track takes about two and a half hours to dry, and the race usually takes four hours. So officials are doing the math while keeping an eye on the radar. No Daytona 500 has ever been postponed.

“We are equipped,” Helton said. “The Daytona International Speedway has every drying piece of machinery they got across the country here today, because we know that the fans at home and the fans here in Daytona want to see the race run. We do, too. The sooner, the better.”

The forecast calls for intermittent showers most of the afternoon, and even worse weather is on tap for Monday.

“I got a feeling this is going to be a long day,” driver David Ragan posted on Twitter. “I really feel bad for the fans that are soaking wet. I am going to make a grocery store run.”