DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The Daytona 500 finally started Monday, a day later than scheduled because of two-days of rain at Daytona International Speedway.

The day was supposed to open with the rescheduled second-tier Xfinity Series race and then lead into “The Great American Race.” But when it was still raining Monday morning, NASCAR reordered the events and made the Xfinity race the closer.

Joey Logano started from the pole in a Ford for Team Penske — a first for Roger Penske’s storied team — in an all-Ford front row. But right before the race began, three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin became the betting favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

There was no pre-race concert Monday as scheduled performer Pitbull said he’d return next year to make good on his appearance. He said a scheduling conflict prevented him from staying in Daytona on Monday, but, grand marshal Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson did stay the extra day and was the most popular attraction in pre-race activities.

Johnson was swarmed on the starting grid, in the fan zone and received the loudest ovation in the pre-race driver meeting, to which he showed up 30 minutes ahead of schedule wearing a black tank top.

The flexibility NASCAR has shown this month in working within its schedule to avoid inclement weather is practically unprecedented in the first 75 hours of the series. NASCAR, to start the month, moved the exhibition Clash at the Coliseum up a full day because of impending rain. At Daytona, it rescheduled the ARCA Series race from Saturday to Friday night, and made early decisions to move both the Xfinity and Cup Series races.

The decision to postpone the Cup race a day was made early Sunday morning and prevented fans from sitting in rain-soaked grandstands to see if the race would begin.

When it finally did, it was just hours after teams used Sunday’s rain delay to reveal to The Associated Press that they have hired one of the country’s top antitrust and sports lawyers to advise them in their ongoing dispute with NASCAR over a new revenue-sharing model.

The decision to hire Jeffrey Kessler, partner and co-executive chair of Winston & Strawn LLP, followed a meeting at Daytona that included the majority owner from every chartered team. Although the teams invited NASCAR representatives to attend, none did.

Kessler’s hiring was revealed to AP by the five members of the team ownership negotiating committee. It comes amid a breakdown in negotiations between teams and NASCAR that led the 36 chartered teams to decline last month to extend their exclusive negotiating window with the sanctioning body on the existing deal.


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