Coke Zero 400 at Daytona postponed to tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. ET

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Steady rains this afternoon and early evening have forced NASCAR to postpone tonight’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The 160-lap, 400-mile race will instead go off tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. ET with TNT and the Motor Racing Network retaining TV and radio broadcast coverage.

According to Daytona International Speedway, parking lots for fans attending the race will open at 7 a.m. ET and the gates to the track will open at 9 a.m. ET.

Inclement weather moved into the Daytona Beach region this afternoon and caused the track to deploy its Air Titan and jet dryer units. However, as the rain continued, the dryers were told to stop and the originally scheduled green flag time of 7:57 p.m. ET was quietly scratched.

During the 8 o’clock hour, drying resumed again along the 2.5-mile oval in the event of a break in the weather that might have enabled NASCAR to get the race in. But at that time, pessimism appeared to be setting in.

Before NASCAR made the call to postpone the race, its vice president of operations, Steve O’Donnell, admitted that the chances of racing tonight were “not looking good” on his Twitter account:

Additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. – who is seeking to become the sixth Sprint Cup driver in history to sweep both Daytona races in the same year – was starting to plan on racing tomorrow.

Finally, a little before 9 p.m. ET, NASCAR decided that enough was enough for tonight. However, tomorrow’s forecast from the National Weather Service also calls for rain, with showers and thunderstorms likely coming after Noon ET.

The Coke Zero 400 now becomes the fourth Sprint Cup event in 2014 to be impacted by rain. A six-hour rain delay pushed the Daytona 500 to primetime, while two rain delays marred the Food City 500 in March at Bristol Motor Speedway. Then, in April, the Duck Commander 500 at Texas was postponed to the following Monday.

This weekend alone, rain has played a major role at Daytona. Both Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series qualifying sessions were cut short, and the start of last night’s Nationwide race was delayed by almost two hours before it was ran in its entirety.

David Gilliland will be on the pole for tomorrow’s race.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.