Aric Almirola was declared the winner after a wild race was called for rain just before 3 pm in a NASCAR Coke Zero 400 that was delayed twice because of rain and that featured some of the worst wrecks in recent memory.
A 16 car wreck 20 laps in took eight drivers, including Jimmie Johnson, out of serious contention, but that was nothing compared to the when Kyle Busch flipped, setting into motion the disaster in lap 100. That wreck involved 26 cars. Danica Patrick barely missed, her cautious driving style paying off as she was able to continue the race after the red flag was lifted and several drivers were towed away.
After the wrecked cars were towed off, and other teams scrambled to get their cars back into shape to finish the race under the red flag, and Brad Keselowski being hit with a penalty for too many men over the wall, only 16 cars remained on the lead lap, leaving a wide open field with Aric Almirola in the lead.
When all was said and done, Aric Almirola was declared the winner after the rain started falling hard again just before 3 pm, with Brian Vickers finishing in second. Kurt Busch took third, Casey Mears fourth, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five. The other drivers in the top ten included Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer, and Michael Ambrose.
The third red flag of the day came in lap 113 as rain started to fall, leaving one end of the Daytona International Speedway soaked and the other end dry. Aric Almirola was in the lead at the red flag, followed by Brian Vickers, Kurt Busch, Casey Mears and Austin Dillon. Danica Patrick was in 8th, Jeff Gordon was in 12th and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was going for the coveted Daytona Double, was in 14th.
Ultimately, that’s the way it ended, with the race called in the 112th lap as the rain poured down, eliminating any hope that the drivers would be able to continue the race.
While waiting out the rain, Danica told interviewers on TNT:
“The car is fast, it’s just been a matter of attrition and getting a little lucky… the car’s been through two crashes… we’ve been really fortunate, getting a yellow in the middle when I made a mistake on pit row… there’s a lot less to lose than normal, so it’ll be fun to go back at it.”
Aric Almirola, who was looking for his first win and stood to win if the race was stopped for rain, said:
“I’m not going to lie, I’m just hoping the Good Lord will send a big ol’ rain shower on us.”
Someone up there was apparently listening, as the rain started coming down hard about an hour later. The race was declared official and Aric Almirola was declared the winner of this year’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Today’s win at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona was Aric Almirola’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup win.