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Rain Ends Drought For The No. 43 Petty Car

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 6 2014

Aric Almirola became a Sprint Cup winner on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

Aric Almirola dove the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford to victory in Sunday’s rain-delayed, rain-shortened and crash-decimated Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

The victory was the first in Cup for Almirola and the first for the iconic 43 car since 1999.

While the weather was grim, Almirola was not when the race was called.

“I grew up two hours away from here in Tampa and I grew up in those stands watching Daytona 500s and Firecracker 400s and grew up dreaming about what it would be like to win here,” he said. “I can’t believe I just took the 43 car to victory lane here at Daytona. This is amazing.”

The victory likely put Almirola and the 43 team into the Chase.

“Yes, and deservedly so for this race team,” he said. “We have had good cars, top-10 cars. We have been right where we need to be to be competitive but just haven’t gotten to that next level. This is so cool to get this team and all these guys behind me that have been working on this race team for a long time and haven’t gotten to victory lane with the 43 car, this is so special. I wish my wife and kids were here. They contemplated coming but decided not to come. I wish they were here so bad. This is so awesome.”

The race, which was orginally scheduled for Saturday evening but was moved to Sunday morning because of rain, was declared official after 112 of the scheduled 160 laps – again, because of rain.

When officials decided to call the race after a long red flag Sunday afternoon, Almirola was the leader.

Thirty years ago – July 4, 1984 to be exact – Richard Petty won this race, the last of his 200 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories.

“Thirty years ago, that’s history; today is the future,” “The King” said when reached by telephone by NASCAR public relations after the race.

“Well, you know, you’ve been around me long enough to know that I don’t never give up on anything, and like I said, might have been 30 years. It was what, ’99? If you look back at the history and Petty Enterprises, all the turmoil we’ve been through in the last seven, eight years and all that stuff, I never give up on the thing. So it was one of those deals that I said, okay, if I keep working at it long enough, we’re going to be able to overcome all this.

“Just winning one race doesn’t overcome it. Don’t get me wrong. But it puts you in a higher speed track, and you know you can do it. It proves that we can do it, the drivers know we can do it, and I think it’s just going to make it that much easier to go from here — everybody has got to have a start, and I think this will get us started pretty good.”

Finishing second was Brian Vickers while Kurt Busch was third, Casey Mears fourth and Austin Dillon fifth.

Before the race was called, two big wrecks took out a number of high profile drivers.

The first occurred on Lap 21 and appeared to start when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got loose.

Tony Stewart, who suffered big damage in the incident, pulled his membership from the Stenhouse fan club as a result.

“The No. 17 car (Stenhouse Jr.) got sideways on the lap that we’re all getting a competition caution,” Stewart said. “I don’t know. I guess Ricky thought it paid something to get to lap 20. I don’t know. It didn’t make much sense to me, but I’m not that smart either; so I don’t know. I don’t know that I’m the right person to ask.

“I guess is was just Stenhouse being an idiot. It didn’t make much sense when we’re coming to the caution, we’re like a quarter of a lap from getting to the caution and he does something stupid. It tore up a lot of people’s cars and a lot of people’s days. To get here on Wednesday night and sit here all day and run 19 and three-quarter laps and get wrecked by somebody who’s doing something stupid.”

Involved were former champions Jimmie Johnson and Stewart, as well as Matt Kenseth , Dale Earnhardt Jr., rookie Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards. In all, 16 cars were involved.

“We had the outside lane working there and it seemed like some of the guys were struggling on the bottom and the middle and we got a little loose on the top,” Stenhouse said. “I saved it and everything was good and then all of a sudden we got hit in the left rear. I am not real sure what happened. We are going to try to go back out there and see if we can make a few more laps and gain as many spots as we can and see what happens. It is a tough way to end our day though. I feel like we had a really fast race car.”

The second big wreck occurred on Lap 98. Kyle Busch went upside down during the wreck and slid down the tack on his roof. Also involved were Joey Logano and Greg Biffle.

The second wreck also brought out a red flag.

“I am just so unhappy,” Biffle, who led nine laps on Sunday, said. “I watched the replay. That is close quarters racing. David Ragan gave me a big push and then Kasey (Kahne) got up and went to 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 or something. It was just a chain reaction. You just never know when the cars slow down that quick and I had a shove from the 34 from behind and you can’t react that fast unfortunately.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Sunday, July 06, 2014

1. (15) Aric Almirola, Ford, 112, $377176.

2. (30) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 112, $237655.

3. (40) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 112, $187680.

4. (22) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 112, $172113.

5. (23) Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 112, $179916.

6. (37) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 112, $135370.

7. (27) Michael McDowell, Ford, 112, $122770.

8. (29) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 112, $127045.

9. (34) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 112, $150536.

10. (18) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 112, $140565.

11. (38) Terry Labonte, Ford, 112, $128643.

12. (9) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 112, $154696.

13. (43) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 112, $124843.

14. (7) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 112, $117785.

15. (19) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 112, $136843.

16. (21) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 112, $136574.

17. (28) Joey Logano, Ford, 112, $144501.

18. (26) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 111, $149093.

19. (41) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 111, $113735.

20. (6) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 111, $152021.

21. (32) Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, 104, $115793.

22. (8) David Ragan, Ford, Accident, 102, $120957.

23. (33) Josh Wise, Ford, 101, $102635.

24. (20) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 100, $110010.

25. (31) Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, Accident, 98, $109460.

26. (4) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, Accident, 98, $97710.

27. (14) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 97, $116460.

28. (39) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 97, $149676.

29. (10) Greg Biffle, Ford, Accident, 97, $140785.

30. (36) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, Accident, 97, $134749.

31. (3) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 97, $96810.

32. (42) Ryan Truex #, Toyota, Accident, 97, $95735.

33. (2) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Accident, 97, $96635.

34. (17) Cole Whitt #, Toyota, Accident, 97, $95460.

35. (1) David Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 97, $111285.

36. (35) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 69, $121480.

37. (11) Carl Edwards, Ford, 66, $113948.

38. (25) Trevor Bayne(i), Ford, 46, $89240.

39. (13) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 46, $126273.

40. (12) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 45, $115398.

41. (16) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 37, $113065.

42. (5) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 20, $127176.

43. (24) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Accident, 19, $69740.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 130.014 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 09 Mins, 13 Secs. Margin of Victory: Caution.

Caution Flags: 6 for 29 laps.

Lead Changes: 21 among 14 drivers.

Lap Leaders: D. Gilliland 1-4; M. Kenseth 5-16; T. Stewart 17-19; D. Ragan 20-24; C. Bowyer 25; C. Mears 26; D. Ragan 27-28; R. Sorenson 29-32; L. Cassill(i) 33-34; D. Gilliland 35; L. Cassill(i) 36-38; J. McMurray 39-41; M. Annett # 42-43; J. McMurray 44-51; G. Biffle 52-59; Kurt Busch 60-85; G. Biffle 86; J. Gordon 87-88; Kurt Busch 89-97; A. Almirola 98-104; Kurt Busch 105; A. Almirola 106-112.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kurt Busch 3 times for 36 laps; A. Almirola 2 times for 14 laps; M. Kenseth 1 time for 12 laps; J. McMurray 2 times for 11 laps; G. Biffle 2 times for 9 laps; D. Ragan 2 times for 7 laps; D. Gilliland 2 times for 5 laps; L. Cassill(i) 2 times for 5 laps; R. Sorenson 1 time for 4 laps; T. Stewart 1 time for 3 laps; J. Gordon 1 time for 2 laps; M. Annett # 1 time for 2 laps; C. Bowyer 1 time for 1 lap; C. Mears 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: J. Gordon – 651; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 624; J. Johnson – 596; B. Keselowski – 586; M. Kenseth – 580; J. Logano – 546; C. Edwards – 543; R. Newman – 534; Kyle Busch – 524; P. Menard – 516; K. Harvick – 514; C. Bowyer – 509; A. Dillon # – 494; D. Hamlin – 493; G. Biffle – 490; B. Vickers – 484.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 6 2014
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Jim says:

    The only other finish at this point for NASCAR to have the same or more publicity is if Danica was leading when they called the race. This was about the 43 winning daytona and the media exposure that comes with it. Aric deserves the win, he as earned it but at the same time NASCAR saw enormous media attention if the 43 was sitting in winners circle. They could have run a few more laps, another red for rain, a few more and so on. Could have been anybody if they ran more laps. But this was perfect timing for NASCAR to regain some lost momentum.