Aric Almirola gets rain-shortened win at Daytona


Jul 6, 2014; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Aric Almirola celebrates in victory lane after winning the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

On July 4, 1984, Richard Petty claimed his historic and final 200th-career victory in the annual July 400-mile race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Fast-forward 30 years and two days later and a Richard Petty owned No. 43 cars is celebrating in victory lane at Daytona. Rain delayed the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona from its original Saturday night date to Sunday, and then red-flagged the race after six laps before returning for good to bring a conclusion to the event after 112 laps of the scheduled 160-lap distance. When the race was called, Aric Almirola and his No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford was scored the leader and, therefore, Almirola claimed his first-career Cup win and became the 11th driver to visit victory lane in 2014.

“We’re going to be in the Chase,” Almirola said after the race. “It’s been such a crazy year. We’ve had fast cars but had bad finish after bad finish.”

Brian Vickers was second, Kurt Busch third, Casey Mears fourth and Austin Dillon fifth. Sixth through 10th at the time the race was called were Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose.

“We led a lot of laps today with our Haas-Automation Chevrolet; it’s a hard pill to swallow,” Busch said, noting the amount of daylight left and the lights at the track.

The red flags for rain weren’t the only red flags in the race. The race was also red flagged on lap 98 for a wreck that involved more than 20 cars and looked to start with Kasey Kahne getting out of shape. Kyle Busch wound up on his roof during the wreck after being hit by Cole Whitt, who couldn’t see where he was going because his rook was up, obstructing his view.

The lap 98 incident was the second of two “big ones,” with the first coming on lap 21 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. seemed to have trouble and Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon got together trying to avoid him.

Before the attrition, Matt Kenseth ran up front leading 12 of the first 21 laps but wound up being involved in both multi-car wrecks. By the end of the second “bigt one,” there only appeared to be about six cars that didn’t sustain at least minor damage in at least one of the incidents.

Biffle and McMurray both ran up front between the first multi-car wreck and Kurt Busch taking the lead around lap 60, but both Biffle and McMurray were collected in the lap 98 wreck.

Kurt Busch continued to run up front at the halfway point of the race, but lost the lead to Almirola just before the second big wreck. Almirola was then able to hold Busch off on the restart and maintained his lead until the race-ending rain came out just a few laps later.

“Man, this is so awesome,” Almirola said. “This is a true testament to this team and Richard Petty Motorsports.”

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