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Rainy days and Mondays

- rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.com
Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It rained hard enough and often enough Sunday at Daytona International Speedway that the infield lake that runs the length of the backstretch wasn't the only pond at the track.

The infield grass near the start-finish line looked like a rice paddy. They could have jet-skied down pit road. Ducks took cover.

It would rain, then pause. Rain, then pause. Rain really hard. Then pause.

Jet dry. Rinse. Repeat.

And so ended the 54th Daytona 500 before it ever started.

Throughout the early afternoon, people who acted like they knew what was coming kept promising the rain was going to stop.

Of course it would stop. It always has before.

The problem is it may not stop long enough to keep the Daytona 500 from being run on a Tuesday, which would be like having Christmas in August. If this thing goes much longer, there may be no snack food left in central Florida.

The Daytona 500 had never been rained out until the news came at approximately 5:15 Sunday afternoon. If the most exciting words in racing are, "Lady and gentlemen start your engine," the biggest bummer may be hearing a race official say, "We've lost the track."

That's race official talk for "I hope you didn't park in a low spot in that field behind Turn 2."

They tried to have a Daytona 500, carrying on with the obligatory pre-race hoopla despite the conditions.

This being an election year - you may have heard - there was a little politicking going on.

The Florida primary may be long past, but Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made the scene, taking time out from Michigan where he's in a two-car tandem with Rick Santorum, to press the flesh at Daytona, even standing in the rain without the benefit of an umbrella just like thousands of fans.

His hair still looked marvelous.

Romney spoke briefly at the pre-race drivers' meeting and said the race "combines two of the things I like best - cars and sports." It's hard to get more regular guy than that.

Santorum was at the race in name only, but there was a nice twist there. His name was painted on the side of Tony Raines' car and, considering how wet Sunday was, it somehow seemed fitting.

Rocker Lenny Kravitz showed up for a pre-race concert that was loud enough to rattle glass, and the Three Stooges made a cameo, driving little carts down the rain-slicked track before hopping out and doing their Larry, Moe and Curly routine, a promotional stunt for an upcoming movie that will almost certainly remind us of the genius of the originals as compared to the new Stooges.

Pole-winner Carl Edwards tended to a broken awning on his motorhome, a casualty, he said, of the weather. With nothing else to do, Edwards climbed atop his motorhome and tried to do some repair work.

Unable to fix it, he went back to watching the U.S. Open of professional bowling on television.

"Pete Weber won," Edwards told the media desperate for any fresh morsel of something other than snack food. "I don't know if you guys are Pete Weber fans or not. That guy is intense. Turns out he's from Missouri (as is Edwards).

"I got into that a little bit. It was inspiring. He had to throw a strike and he did, final throw. Won his fifth major title. Pretty cool."

And dry, too.

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