After four days of rain and multiple big wrecks, Mother Nature finally put an end to Sunday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Lap 112 of 160.
When NASCAR called the event, Aric Almirola was out front, scoring his first career Sprint Cup Series victory
"This is so awesome," Almirola said in a rain-soaked Victory Lane. "The amount of effort that’s gone into this race team this year, everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports trying to get better and trying to build this team back to a winning race team the way it deserves to be, has been so cool to watch grow.
"To get this US Air Force Ford Fusion in Victory Lane 30 years to the weekend that Richard Petty got his 200th win is really, really special," he said. "The good Lord was looking out for us today. We had a really fast car nonetheless, but I’ll take them any way we can get them."
Sunday marked the first time the No. 43 car has gone to Victory Lane in the Sprint Cup Series since John Andretti won at Martinsville Speedway in 1999.
Team owner Richard Petty was not on hand for Sunday’s victory, however, as he left Daytona early and was "reading the funny papers and watching the race."
"Well, 30 years ago is history, okay, and today is future," Petty said. "Today is today. So to be able to win the race down there, win it for the Air Force, Fourth of July, you know, the whole thing is just great. I just feel so good for the crew. They’ve been working ‑‑ they’re like everybody else, they work hard. They’ve done this deal. We’ve had so many disappointments, and finally it rained on us, but it rained on us at the right time, okay. Overall it was just a great day for us."
The victory also goes a long way in putting Almirola and his Richard Petty Motorsports team in the Chase.
"We’re going to be in the Chase! This race team deserves to be in the Chase," he said. "I told everybody at the beginning the year, all our sponsors and everybody that was committing to our race team, I said, ‘I promise you we’ll get to Victory Lane.’ Low and behold we’ve done it."
The first-career victory also came at Almirola’s home track, Daytona International Speedway.
"I’ve said time and time again how bad I want to win here," Almirola said. "This is my home race, two hours away from Tampa, Fla. I grew up sitting in those grandstands right up there watching Daytona 500s and Firecracker 400s, dreaming about what it’d be like to race here. Man, I just took the 43 car to Victory Lane at Daytona."