July 13, 2014
History Was Made At Daytona In The Coke Zero 400
To a true race fan, attending a NASCAR Sprint Cup event is quite a rush — especially at one of the super speedways like Talladega or Daytona. The 43-car field race at speeds over 200 mph, bumper to bumper and door handle to door handle. Personally, I’ve been to Talladega and it is a rush.
Every year, NASCAR heads to Daytona International Speedway on the July 4th weekend for a Saturday night shoot out. This year, the Coke Zero 400, unfortunately, was postponed until Sunday, July 6. Sunday didn’t seem any better. Forecasts called for 100 percent chance of rain in the morning and an 80 percent chance in the evening. However, that didn’t stop fans from packing the stands in anticipation of an exciting race.
History was made this year in several ways. First, this will be the first time the race hasn’t been run on a Saturday night since the 1997 July 4th weekend. The race was held on Sunday as planned, but the weather played a big role in the race itself, as well as the outcome.
The start of the race was delayed, but when it finally got underway, the excitement built as the cars took the green flag. However, rain once again delayed the race. The cars were pulled into the pits and the race was red flagged. Two other red flags delayed the race from two major wrecks.
The race was restarted and in typical, super speedway fashion, the big one happened. Not just once, but twice. In the aftermath of the two wrecks, most of the field was out of the race or driving around with damaged vehicles. Only seven of the 43 cars in the field avoided the two wrecks.
In the second wreck, with 63 laps to go, Kyle Busch, driver of car 18, ended up on his roof. “It just felt like a slow carnival ride. When you go over like that, you get tight in your restraints. You just hang on to your restraints. That’s pretty much it.” Busch said.
The race restarted after the third red flag for a massive 25-car pile-up that left Busch on his roof. However, only a few laps were ran and, once again, the weather was a factor and the race was red flagged on lap 113 of the scheduled 160. It left only 17 cars on the lead lap and Aric Almirola with the lead. With most of the top named drivers out of the race and so many others damaged, it let drivers who normally aren’t contenders be in the front.
This time the rain continued and since the race had gone at least halfway, it was stopped and history was made with the winner Aric Almirola. He is the driver of car number 43, the iconic number used by Richard Petty many years ago. What made the win so special is this win fell on the 30th anniversary of Richard Petty’s last win, which was win number 200 of his career.
“The amount of effort that’s gone into this race team this year with everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports trying to build this race team back to a winning race team, the way it’s supposed to be,” Almirola said in a rain-soaked Victory Lane. “Thirty years to the weekend that Richard Petty got his 200th win is really, really special,” he added.
The last race the number 43 won was back in 1999 with John Andretti driving the car to victory at Martinsville Speedway, 543 races ago.
Along with the history making events that transpired in the race, another milestone was achieved for one driver. Danica Patrick the only female in the field, matched her eighth place finish that she got in the 2013 Daytona 500 where she became the first woman driver to win a pole and lead five laps. She also was the first woman driver to lead laps at Talladega in May this year. Her best career finish was seventh in the 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway, also achieved in May of this year.
To get her finishing position of eighth in the rained shorten race, she was able to avoid both wrecks, however not completely. She did sustain minor damage in the second melee, but was able to continue and be competitive. “It’s been a crazy day. I can’t believe we finished eighth, she said after the race.
“The car was fast. It has just been a matter of attrition and getting a little lucky and making it through things. We were in two crashes and the car has been OK to keep going, which is hard to do here at Daytona because the splitter height is so critical,” she added.
With as many of the major drivers out of the race as there were, maybe Danica could have finished even higher, or maybe even won, if the race could have gone the distance.
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