|Photo credit: Chris Graythen, Getty Images Sport|
Aric Almirola made history in several different ways with his win at the Coke Zero 400 on Sunday, July 6. Not only was this Almirola’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career win, but he also has virtually guaranteed a spot in the 16-driver grid in the NASCAR Chase For The Sprint Cup under the new format.
To add to his successful day, Almirola brought the No. 43 car - most recognized for being driven by Richard Petty, who ran all but 60 of his record 1,185 starts and claimed 192 of his record 200 wins in the car - to Victory Lane on the 30th anniversary of Petty’s 200th, and final, NASCAR Cup win.
There was no shortage of excitement for the Tampa native, driver of the No. 43 Ford Fusion, who along with earning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, also became the first driver of Cuban-American descent to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Growing up, Almirola grew up watching numerous races at Daytona International Speedway. His journey to Victory Lane began when he was 8, and he has raced everything from go-karts to super late models to trucks in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and cars in the NASCAR Nationwide Series before receiving a life changing phone call in 2012. It was then that he received a call from Richard “The King” Petty to take the wheel of the No. 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car.
It was no easy road to Victory Lane on Sunday, as Almirola weathered the storms on Sunday after rain postponed the originally-scheduled Saturday night Coke Zero 400. He came out on top after two multi-car wrecks at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, and was at the front of the pack when the red flag came out on Lap 112 of 160 due to storms in the area.
With that, Almirola earned his first victory, and could be driving his way to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.