Aric Almirola said it best during an interview with Claire B Lang of the Motor Racing Network as the two talked moments after Almirola took the checkered flag at the Coke Zero 400: "The drought has ended."
The driver was not only talking about rain falling from the sky but also about returning Richard Petty Motorsports to Victory Lane for the first time since 1999.
The win came thirty years after Richard Petty had won his 200th race during the same weekend of racing. Now the famed No. 43 car, known for being Petty Blue, was sporting the colors and logo of the United States Air Force. It was a sponsorship that Almirola noted made things even more special:
"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," Almirola 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."
The Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race was supposed to run on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway but rain forced the event to be postponed until Sunday morning. The day started off nicely but before the green flag was waved driver were reporting that a light mist and raindrops were beginning to fall on the track.
Before the end of the day the race was stopped three times with red flags due to rain and wrecks. Because of the weather, and prior commitments, Richard Petty had made the decision to leave Daytona before the race started and ended up watching from his home in North Carolina.
The famed driver and team owner, often referred to as “the King”, was connected by a conference call into the driver and team during post-race media interviews:
"If you look back at the history of Petty Enterprises and all the turmoil we've been through, I never gave up on the thing," Petty said during the conference call.
"It was one of those deals I said, `OK, if I keep working at it long enough, we're going to be able to overcome all of this.' Just because we won a race doesn't mean we've overcome it, don't get me wrong. But it puts in a higher speed track. You know you can do it. Everybody's got to have a start, and I think this will be starting it pretty good."
The race saw two large wrecks which included 16 cars and then 26 cars. Several of the regular NASCAR race leaders were either taken out or too damaged to contend for the win. Some of these drivers included six-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch who found himself resting upside down in his car after it rolled over during a wreck.
Busch let his team know he was OK live on the National TV broadcast just as the audio started picking up the communication between drivers and teams. Busch’s voice popped across the TV broadcast from within his overturned car as camera’s zoomed in on the smoking wreck which included his No. 18 Toyota.
"Having a good ole time over here," Busch joked. "Just hanging around."
The race ended under the rain stopage with Brian Vickers placing second. He was followed by Kurt Busch, Casey Mears and rookie driver Austin Dillon. Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose completed the top 10.
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