The U.S. Air Force returns to the No. 43 Ford of Aric Almirola as the nation celebrates the Fourth of July holiday week at the "Birthplace of Speed." The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its second trip of the season to Daytona Beach, Fla., for Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at the super-fast Daytona International Speedway.
The U.S. Air Force scheme is not only an appropriate salute to the military for Independence Day, it also brings good luck. The last time the team ran the Air Force scheme (May in Charlotte) Almirola won the pole.
On the holiday that celebrates the United States' birthday, Almirola will also be celebrating the birthday of "The King." Team owner and racing legend Richard Petty turned 75 on Monday. Almirola will attend a birthday bash in Daytona Beach Wednesday to mark Petty's milestone.
Almirola has two Cup career starts at the 2.5-mile oval. He also has seven combined starts in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series at Daytona, including a start from the pole in Nationwide (2007).
Comments from U.S. Air Force Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:
"It's perfect having the Air Force on our car this week. We're celebrating our nation's independence and all the freedoms that come with it. We wouldn't have those freedoms without the men and women who go out every day and protect them for us. I'll be really proud to stand next to that car on Saturday night with members of the Air Force by my side.
"We've actually got two things to celebrate this week. It's also Richard Petty's 75th birthday this week, and we're going to have a party for him that, of course, is fit for a king. I have such respect for him and pride in driving that '43' car for his team. If I could accomplish half of what he did in his career, that would be something special."
Comments from Crew Chief Mike Ford on Daytona:
"Racing at Daytona seems to have come full circle over the past year and a half. We had the tandem racing last year after the repave. But then this year's 500 kind of took us back to pack racing with the changes NASCAR made to the cooling system. I think we all expect to see that again this week. So you've got to really take care of your motor, being careful not to overheat running in the middle of the pack. You've also got to be on your toes as a driver. As we see every time at a plate race, good cars get taken out just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"I think this can be a really good weekend for Aric. He's got experience at Daytona in a Cup car, unlike some of these other tracks we're going to where it's his first time. I wasn't with the team for the 500 earlier this season, but he ran really well then. He had a fast car and ran up front before he got collected in an accident toward the end. So if we can just stay out of trouble, I think it can be a good weekend for our Air Force Ford."