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 EDT

almirola wins at daytona2 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. Hamilton closes out British GP practice fastest

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:02 AM EDT

    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton drives during the third practice session at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone on July 4, 2015 ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix.      AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    British driver back on top at Silverstone as Rosberg suffers another gearbox problem.

  2. WATCH LIVE: FP3 for the British Grand Prix on Live Extra from 5am ET

    Jul 4, 2015, 4:45 AM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 03:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP drives in the pit lane during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 3, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Rosberg looks to make it a clean sweep of practice sessions on Saturday morning.

  3. GP2: Sirotkin on pole for Silverstone feature race

    Jul 3, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    © GP2 Series © GP2 Series

    Sirotkin claims his first pole in the GP2 Series on Friday ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne and Richie Stanaway.

  4. Red Bull GRC: Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross excited for first race at military base

    Jul 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    SpeedDaytonaGRC Getty Images

    Foust seeks another win, Speed looks for bounce back from tough Daytona at MCAS.

  5. Filippi elated after first oval test, calling it “like a roller coaster x 10″

    Jul 3, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    DETROIT, MI - MAY 29:  Luca Filippi, of Italy,  is shown in the pits during practice for Verizon IndyCar At Detroit Belle Isle on May 29, 2015 in Detroit, MI, United States.  (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The street and road course specialist gets his first taste of an oval in Iowa this week.

  6. Alonso unsure McLaren will reach Q2 at Silverstone

    Jul 3, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    McLaren Honda's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso drives during the second practice session at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone on July 2, 2015 ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix.      AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL        (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Spaniard expects a close fight with Sauber during qualifying on Saturday.

  7. Wolff enjoys final practice run-out of 2015 season

    Jul 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    xxxx during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 3, 2015 in Northampton, England. Getty Images

    Wolff finishes eight-tenths of a second behind regular Williams driver Felipe Massa in FP1 on Friday.

  8. Hamilton more comfortable with old clutch setup

    Jul 3, 2015, 1:22 PM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 03:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP drives during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 3, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    British driver switches back to the old setting on his Mercedes after struggling in the past four races.

  9. Raikkonen: I wouldn’t be racing in F1 if I didn’t want to be

    Jul 3, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 02:  Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrar speaks at a press conference during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 2, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Raikkonen hits back at questions about his motivation as rumors of a possible driver change at Ferrari begin to circulate.

  10. Mercedes handed reprimand for covering Rosberg’s car

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 03:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP returns to the garage during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 3, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Rosberg’s car was covered over following a stoppage in FP1.

  11. Rosberg fastest once again in second British GP practice

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:32 AM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 03:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP drives during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 3, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Two red flags interrupt running in FP2, but it is Nico Rosberg who leads the way once again.

  12. WATCH LIVE: FP2 for the British Grand Prix on NBCSN and Live Extra from 9am ET

    Jul 3, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT

    xxxx during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 3, 2015 in Northampton, England. Getty Images

    Can Nico Rosberg top the timesheets once again in second practice at Silverstone?

  13. Rosberg tops FP1 at Silverstone after gearbox change

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:35 AM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 02:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP speaks with members of his team outside the garage during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 2, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) Getty Images

    First blood to Rosberg despite missing most of FP1 due to a problem on his car.

  14. WATCH LIVE: FP1 for the British Grand Prix on Live Extra from 5am ET

    Jul 3, 2015, 4:46 AM EDT

    SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 19:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP gets in his car in the hgarage during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 19, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images) Getty Images

    First practice at Silverstone kicks off at 5am ET on Friday.

  15. NHRA: Tony Pedregon hopes to keep momentum going in Norwalk

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:08 PM EDT

    Tony Pedregon (Photo courtesy Tony Pedregon official Twitter account) Tony Pedregon (Photo courtesy Tony Pedregon official Twitter account)

    The way his season had been going, two-time NHRA Funny Car champ Tony Pedregon was threatening to become a “Whatever Happened To?” question.

  16. Matthew Brabham completes first IndyCar test, eyes 2016 Indy 500

    Jul 2, 2015, 6:36 PM EDT

    matthew brabham Getty Images

    Today, Iowa. Next year, Indianapolis? That’s what Matthew Brabham is hoping for, after completing his first full IndyCar test with Andretti Autosport Thursday at Iowa Speedway.

  17. Button: Confidence high at McLaren ahead of home GP

    Jul 2, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    xxxx during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 2, 2015 in Northampton, England. Getty Images

    A double DNF in Austria isn’t enough to get McLaren down ahead of British Grand Prix.

  18. Ryan Briscoe making most of filling in for James Hinchcliffe

    Jul 2, 2015, 4:10 PM EDT

    Ryan Briscoe 2015 getty Getty Images

    At the same time that James Hinchcliffe was seriously injured while practicing for the Indianapolis 500, Ryan Briscoe didn’t have a ride for either the 500 or for the season.

  19. Team roster confirmed for second Formula E season

    Jul 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Nextev TCRs German driver Nelson Piquet JR (C) drives during the final race of the 2015 FIA Formula E London ePrix championship at Battersea Park in London, England, on June 28, 2015. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON        (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The same ten teams from season one, albeit with a few name changes.