Thirty years ago Richard Petty won his final NASCAR race at the Daytona International Speedway summer race. On Sunday, Aric Almirola put the 43 back in victory lane at that same track. It was the first win for the 43 since 1999. It is also his first career Sprint Cup Series victory.
"Thirty years to the weekend that Richard Petty got his 200th win is really, really special," said Almirola.
The race delayed on Saturday because of rain was red flagged three times, twice for rain and once for a massive 26 car pile-up that left just 16 cars on the lead lap.
“Just looked like the 16 (Greg Biffle) got into the 5 (Kasey Kahne) and got the 5 squirrely and turned him across the entire field essentially,” said Kyle Busch who ended up on his roof when the wrecking was all said and done. “I shot for the grass and thought I was okay and was going through there but it’s so rough and bumpy and finally my splitter augured in and just turned me right right back across the race track where everybody was wrecking. It’s unfortunate.”
There was also an accident earlier in the race involving 16 cars, leaving just five cars that were not involved in any of the day’s incidents.
As the third round of showers on the day approached, Almirola’s crew decided to take just two tires and fuel, which gave him the track position he need to work his way to the front as the rains came and halted the race for good on lap 112.
"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," said Almirola. "It obviously is really special. I couldn't dream of another place to get my first win."
Almirola has all but assured himself a spot in the Chase for the Championship. Brian Vickers finished the day second, followed by Kurt Busch, Casey Mears and Austin Dillon.
Kansas naïve Clint Bowyer was one of the 26 cars in the “big one.” And although his car nearly went airborn, he was able to avoid major damage to the 15 car and bring it home in ninth.
“Yeah, she kind of did the hospital hop there and had me concerned when it went like that and you’re completely sideways running 200 miles an hour, but it went back down,” said Bowyer. “Man, it’s just too bad. Look how many cars are tore up. These guys spend so much time working on these things. I mean, they work so hard when they come down here and now they’re just scrap.”
Bowyer’s solid finish, coupled with trouble for some of the other cars without a victory that he is fighting with for a spot in the Chase for the Championship, helped him move up one place in those standings to 15th. He is also up two spots to 12th in the regular points standings.