The No. 43 is back in Victory Lane. It is the first time the legendary car number made famous by Richard Petty has won its first race since 1999 at the Martinsville Speedway, and it did so in an untraditional way.
Aric Almirola drove his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford to the front of the pack after the Coke Zero 400 was postponed to Sunday morning after being originally scheduled for Saturday evening. As the rain came, Almirola held off the competition in one of the wildest races of the year. The rain was on and off during Sunday’s event, but it did not hold off long enough as NASCAR opted to end the race after having multiple red flags.
This is Almirola’s first career victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 125 starts. RPM has won their first event since Marcos Ambrose scored the victory at Watkins Glen in 2012. The team has not had a driver in the Chase for the Sprint Cup since 2009 with Kasey Kahne, and now it appears Almirola will be the first one since for RPM.
Brian Vickers came home in the runner-up position for Michael Waltrip Racing. Entering Daytona, his best finish of the year was fourth (Texas and Talladega). Austin Dillon scored his first career top-five finish as he ended the rainy day in the fifth position. Michael McDowell earned his best career finish as he ended the Coke Zero 400 in seventh. Terry Labonte finished 11th in his final race at the Daytona International Speedway. Alex Bowman earned a career-best finish of 13th while racing for BK Racing.
While approaching the competition caution on Lap 20, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the second car on the high line when he got loose at the exit of Turn 4. Jeff Gordon tried to avoid him, but in doing so – got into Tony Stewart, causing the big one. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, A.J. Allmendinger received the most damage in the wreck, but other drivers also had minor bruises to their vehicles. Johnson recorded his first DNF since blowing an engine at Michigan in August of 2013, and it is the first time he is out of a race for an accident for the first time since Atlanta in September of 2012.
“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. I save 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,” Stenhouse Jr. said after the accident.
On Lap 97, Kasey Kahne got loose on the backstretch after Greg Biffle got into him – causing mayhem entering Turn 3. Kyle Busch flipped during the wreck, and landed on his roof. The red flag was displayed for approximately five minutes to clear up the wreck which included 26 cars.
“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,” Biffle said.
“I don’t know what happened. From where I was at all heck broke loose all at once and tore up a bunch of good race cars. I am proud of our guys. Our Love’s Travel Shop Ford was fast all day and sometimes that stuff just happens and this time we were in the middle of it,” pole sitter, Gilliland said after leading five laps on Sunday.
After leading 11 laps in the race, Jamie McMurray was also involved in the accident. McMurray said he saw what was happening in front of him, but there was just not enough time for him to react. His No. 1 Chevrolet went airborne after getting hit in the rear-end on the backstretch.