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Almirola takes No. 43 back to Victory Lane

07/07/2014, 12:00am EDT
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — It had been more than 15 years since the iconic No. 43 drove to Victory Lane.

So, waiting through two days of thunderstorms and three red flags was relatively easy for Aric Almirola and his Richard Petty Motorsports team.

Almirola won the rain-delayed and rain-shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, putting Petty's famed blue car back on top for the first time since 1999.

“The 43 car is without a doubt the most famous car in our sport's history,” Almirola said. “And to have that opportunity to drive that race car has been really special from the day that I stepped foot in it. All I wanted to do from the very first time I drove it was get it to Victory Lane. It took two and a half years, I guess, but I finally did it.”

Petty wasn't around for the festivities, having left Daytona during one of the many delays. He didn't miss much, considering steady rain put a slight damper on the post-race party.

The Coke Zero 400 was originally scheduled run Saturday night, but steady rain forced it to be postponed a day. When it finally started Sunday, it was interrupted several more times.

There were three red flags, two because of accidents that took out most of the 43-car field. Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, and Kyle Busch were among those knocked out of contention.

Biffle and Kahne started the second massive wreck, a 25-car fiasco that ended with Busch getting flipped upside-down in his No. 18 Toyota.

“It just felt like a slow carnival ride,” Busch said.

Vickers finished second, followed by Kurt Busch, Casey Mears and rookie Austin Dillon. Danica Patrick was eighth despite a late pit-road mistake.

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