Skip to content

Aric Almirola earns first career Sprint Cup win in rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

Jul 6, 2014, 3:09 PM EST

(AP Photo/Terry Renna) AP

There’s no other way to explain it: Mother Nature is a Richard Petty fan.

With persistent rain falling for the third time in Sunday’s Coke Zero 400 — due to rain postponing the originally scheduled race on Saturday — NASCAR officials decided to call the race after 112 of the scheduled 160 at Daytona International Speedway laps and declared Aric Almirola and the legendary No. 43 Ford of Richard Petty Motorsports the winner.

The win comes 30 years almost to the day that Petty earned the 200th and final win of his legendary Hall of Fame career, coming at Daytona and in front of then-U.S. President, the late Ronald Reagan. Almirola was only 12 days old when Petty won that race.

It was Almirola’s first career Sprint Cup victory in 125 starts and also the first time that the No. 43 has reached victory lane since John Andretti in April 1999 in Martinsville.

“Man, this is so awesome,” Almirola told TNT. “The amount of effort that has gone into this race team this year, with everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports trying to get better and trying to build this race team back to a winning race team the way it deserves to be, it’s been so cool to watch it grow.

“To get this US Air Force Ford Fusion into victory lane, 30 years to the weekend that Ricahrd Petty won his 200th win, is really, really special. The Good Lord was really looking out for us today. We had a really fast car nonetheless, but I’ll take ‘em any way we can get ‘em.

“And we’re going to be in the Chase. This race team deserves to be in the Chase. I told everybody at the beginning of the year that I promised I’d get them to victory lane and, lo and behold, we’ve done it.”

By virtue of the victory, which came 48 laps shy of the scheduled 160 laps, Almirola all but punches his ticket to the Chase for the Sprint Cup, marking the second time RPM has made the 10-race playoff (Kasey Kahne did so in 2010, finishing 10th in the final season standings).

“I’ve said time and time again how much I wanted to win this race,” Almirola said. “This is my home race, two hours from Tampa, Florida (where he grew up). I grew up sitting in those grandstands watching the Daytona 500 and Firecracker 400 and dreamed about what it would be like to race here — and man, I just took the 43 car to victory lane today in Daytona.

“This is so cool to get all these guys, who’ve been working on this race team for a long team and haven’t had a chance to get to victory lane with this 43 car, this is so, so special.”

Brian Vickers finished second, followed by Kurt Busch, who led the most laps before the race was ruled official.

Casey Mears finished fourth, followed by Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell, Danica Patrick in eighth, Clint Bowyer and Almiroloa’s RPM teammate Marcos Ambrose in 10th.

When the green flag dropped Sunday, drivers were fighting to get to the halfway point of the race due to more rain on the National Weather Service radar that appears to be closing in on the area.

The race got underway at about 11:22 am ET. Pole sitter David Gilliland gave up his lead on Lap 5 to Matt Kenseth. The race was placed under caution just one lap later due to, what else, rain.

After a few moments and five more laps under caution, NASCAR decided to red flag the event at Lap 11 when rain began to fall steadily, primarily in the backstretch area. Cars were brought to pit road, where they sat until the race resumed after an approximately 22-minute rain delay.

Kenseth assumed his spot at the front of the pack with Gilliland right behind, but Tony Stewart made fast work of getting to the front and led a number of laps until disaster struck for him and 14 other drivers.

On Lap 21, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. appeared to get loose. Jeff Gordon, who was behind Stenhouse, attempted to slow down but inadvertently got into the right rear of Stewart’s car, sending him spinning.

Like a pinball, Stewart triggered a wreck that collected several favorites to win the race, including himself, Stenhouse, Gordon, Kentucky winner Brad Keselowski, fellow Stewart Haas racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Danica PatrickDenny Hamlin, Kenseth, Marcos AmbroseTrevor BayneAJ Allmendinger,Kyle LarsonJimmie JohnsonMichael WaltripCarl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Although Stenhouse told TNT that he got loose after the car in front of him, driven by Bobby Labonte, suddenly slowed, Stewart was not a happy camper nonetheless.

“We’re a quarter of a lap away from getting a competition caution, and Stenhouse is going to be a hero,” Stewart told TNT. “I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to him there, but that took out a bunch of good cars for no reason.

“…No matter what I say right now, somebody’s going to be mad and somebody’s going to disagree with it. But I think it’s a pretty dumb excuse to have the caution come out 500 yards too early.”

Then came Lap 98.

Racing against the possibility of more rain on the horizon, the field was heading into Turn 1 on Lap 98 when it appeared on TV replay that Greg Biffle‘s Ford got into the rear of Kasey Kahne‘s Chevrolet, spinning him and then hooking the Ford of Joey Logano, starting sheer mayhem.

From that point on, drivers begun flying all over the race track, with Kyle Busch winding up upside down in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Fortunately, the younger Busch brother was uninjured. His car was slowly righted onto its wheels and Busch climbed out, receiving a round of applause from the crowd.

According to NASCAR statisticians, the following cars were involved in the wreck:

Kasey Kahne, Clint BowyerAlex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Greg BiffleDavid GillilandJustin AllgaierRyan NewmanPaul MenardJosh WiseMichael AnnettRyan TruexMatt KensethBobby LabonteJamie McMurrayLandon CassillMarcos Ambrose, Joey LoganoDavid RaganDenny HamlinDanica PatrickBrad KeselowskiTerry LabonteReed Sorenson and Michael McDowell.

“I’m just so unhappy,” Biffle told TNT. “It was just close-quarters racing. Kasey went into the middle and ran into the back of the 13 car and slowed way up and I hit the back of the 5. We weren’t lined up. He moved down for some reason when he hit the 13 (Casey Mears) or something, but just a chain reaction.

“You just never know cars are going to slow down that quick. I had a shove from the 34 (David Ragan) from behind and you just can’t react that fast, unfortunately.”

“I knew there was going to be trouble there,” David Gilliland said. “I probably should have given myself more room. Cars were just sliding around all over. … What a mess. Not the day we were looking forward.”

Kahne noted, “I was just getting hit from behind. I was in a tough spot. … I’m not exactly sure what happened. It’s too bad.”

Kyle Busch said, “It just felt like a slow carnival ride. I guess that’s fitting for the Fourth of July, but not here for Daytona. … I just got T-boned at the end there and toppled me over.”

Jamie McMurray added, “It was a helpless feeling.”

The race resumed on Lap 104 with Aric Almirola in the lead, only to have the race go back under caution due to rain five laps later. Three laps later, the race was redflagged and after a more than 30-minute wait, Almirola had earned his first career Sprint Cup victory.

We’ll be back with more shortly.

 

Latest Posts
  1. Nico Rosberg rallies to pole position in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 22, 2014, 9:06 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying Getty Images

    German driver claims his 11th pole position of the season.

  2. WATCH LIVE: Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying on NBCSN from 8a ET

    Nov 22, 2014, 7:45 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying Getty Images

    The final fight for pole position takes place in Abu Dhabi today, with all of the action on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8a ET.

  3. GP2 champion Palmer admits F1 chances are slim

    Nov 22, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia - Qualifying Getty Images

    The British racer will test for Force India next week, but thinks he chances of getting a full-time seat are slim.

  4. Horner: The right time for Vettel to leave Red Bull

    Nov 22, 2014, 6:30 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Practice Getty Images

    Red Bull team boss thinks it is the right time for both the driver and the team to part company.

  5. Rosberg closes out Abu Dhabi practice fastest

    Nov 22, 2014, 6:04 AM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI-PRACTICE

    Nico strikes back in FP3, edging out Hamilton by three-tenths of a second.

  6. WATCH LIVE: FP3 for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

    Nov 22, 2014, 4:45 AM EST

    Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Nico Rosberg must stop Lewis Hamilton’s dominance in practice if he is to put the pressure on for qualifying.

  7. Formula E: Sam Bird soars to victory in Putrajaya ePrix

    Nov 22, 2014, 2:33 AM EST

    The Goodwood Festival of Speed - Day 1 Getty Images

    A nifty early move for the lead and masterful power conservation gives Bird the win in Malaysia.

  8. Nicolas Prost wins Formula E Malaysia pole, but must serve 10-spot grid penalty

    Nov 21, 2014, 10:22 PM EST

    CHina Formula E Auto Racing AP

    Prost will start tonight’s Putrajaya ePrix from 11th, while Oriol Servia and Jerome d’Ambrosio of Dragon Racing will be at the head of the field.

  9. Sam Bird tops Formula E practice in Malaysia

    Nov 21, 2014, 8:27 PM EST

    AUTO-FORMULAE-CHN Getty Images

    The Virgin Racing pilot takes top honors in a 75-minute practice session ahead of qualifying and tonight’s Putrajaya ePrix.

  10. NASCAR AMERICA: A well-deserved title for Kevin Harvick (VIDEO)

    Nov 21, 2014, 7:00 PM EST

    NASCAR Champions Portraits Getty Images

    Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team had to go through a lot in 2014 to win the Sprint Cup title. NASCAR AMERICA’s Rick Allen and Kyle Petty discuss.

  11. NASCAR AMERICA: The final pit strategies of the Championship 4 (VIDEO)

    Nov 21, 2014, 6:00 PM EST

    Credit: Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/MCT Credit: Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/MCT

    Kevin Harvick’s four-tire call late at Homestead proved to be the difference in his title-clinching victory last weekend. NASCAR AMERICA discuss how pit strategy made an impact.

  12. NASCAR: John Wes Townley to run full-time trucks, part-time XFINITY in 2015

    Nov 21, 2014, 4:48 PM EST

    UNOH 225 Getty Images

    His Athenian Motorsports team will switch to Chevrolet and get Hendrick engines for its dual programs.

  13. Kevin Magnussen not seeing Abu Dhabi as battle for survival at McLaren

    Nov 21, 2014, 3:15 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Practice Getty Images

    Magnussen on his future with McLaren: “I honestly assume that no decision has been made on the management level so far, but I would deny that this race is something of a shoot-out.”

  14. Watch NASCAR America 5 pm ET – Final Scan All 43 – Championship Edition

    Nov 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    nascar america

    You say you need a NASCAR fix? Well, don’t worry, Friday is the final installment of our NASCAR America – Scan All 43 episodes, entitled “NASCAR America: Scan All 43 – Championship Edition.”

  15. Abu Dhabi GP Paddock Notebook – Friday

    Nov 21, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    Lewis Hamilton sent out a statement of intent during practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix today, beating Nico Rosberg in both practice sessions.

  16. Kristensen’s retirement leaves a void bigger than just a race seat

    Nov 21, 2014, 2:15 PM EST

    FRA-AUTO-LEMANS Getty Images

    Replacing Tom Kristensen will be no easy task at Audi.

  17. Alonso anticipating hardest qualifying of 2014 in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 21, 2014, 1:45 PM EST

    Fernando Alonso AP

    Electrical failure in FP2 robs the Spaniard of some much-needed track time after sunset in Abu Dhabi.

Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Johnson (1774)
  2. J. Gordon (1743)
  3. K. Harvick (1679)
  4. R. Newman (1663)
  5. J. Logano (1649)
  1. D. Hamlin (1635)
  2. T. Stewart (1391)
  3. K. Larson (1289)
  4. M. Kenseth (1269)
  5. J. McMurray (1174)