DAYTONA RAINING: Coke Zero 400 race falls flat with bad weather and lots of empty seats

No checkered flag for NASCAR-anointed winner Aric Almirola

 
Green flag at Daytona for Coke Zero 400 / Headline Surfer®Aric Amirola wins rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 without taking checkered flagPhotos for Headline Surfer® / /Larger photo by Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images /
The green flag is waved to start the Coke Zero 400, with pole-sitter David Gilliland, in the No. 38 Ford, leading the field, but there would be no checkered flag for race winner Aric Almirola (shown in the inset, photo by Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images) in the rain-shortened race on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
 

DAYTONA BEACH -- Aric who? And no checkered flag? That's right.

The Coke Zero 400 race winner, Aric Almirola, was decided by NASCAR. Not by the competition on the track in Sunday's rain-shortened race.

And even the race winner himself was overshadowed by a racing legend in the same car No. 43 from 30 years ago in the rain-shortened and oft-delayed Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway with the relatively unknown Almirola declared the winner by NASCAR after the race was officially called with only 112 of the 160 laps completed. 

Almirola was overshadowed by "The King" Richard Petty, who didn't bother to stick around and congratulate him.

It was yet another stinker with a no-name driver winning at the track -- without a checkered flag to boot.

Lots of empty seats during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway / Headline Surfer®Photo for Headline Surfer® /
There were lots of empty seats as demonstrated in this fan-shot image in the grandstands during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday. Attendance was estimated at 60,000, but that may be a stretch. The Speedway can hold 145,000 spectators.
 

In the world of NASCAR where the rules are often so pliable, track officials gave the win to Almirola, in the No. 43 since he was leading the field after  the race was red-flagged a second time for the second of two pile-ups and the rain becoming more pronounced before the race was finally called.

This was Almirola's first Sprint Cup victory in 118 race tries, but there were no fireworks afterwards. They were exploded Saturday night when the race was supposed to be run under the lights, but never got started because of the rain. Few fans stuck around to what what was hyped as the greatest fireworks show around.

And even in victory, Almirola was overshadowed by a racing legend of yesteryear. The No. 43 was last driven to victory 30 years ago in the Daytona 500 by Richard Petty, the seven-time Winston Cup Champion.

Sunday's rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 was the 199th win for car No. 43 and the first since April 1999 when John Andretti won at Marstinsville.

Doppler radar shows lot of rain over Daytona and the Coke Zero 400 race / Headline Surfer®Headline Surfer® photo /
This snapshot from the National Weather Service doppler along the Central Florida coastline shows bands of rain in blues and greens, including the area marked by a rectangular shape over Daytona Beach around 2 p.m. Sunday.
 

The rain put a damper on the Fourth of July races at Daytona from the onset with heavy rain forcing the cancellation of Thursday's evening practice with some fans irritated they had to pay to get into the Speedway in the first place only to see the action shortened.

There were no refunds. An infield ticket for practice was $50.

Friday's Nationwide Firecracker 250 under the lights at Daytona was delayed by 90 minutes because of rain and drew no more than 25,000 fans.

Even fewer fans were there at the end for what turned out to be a decent finish with Casey Kahne taking the checkered flag. With Saturday night's Coke Zero a wash-out, the 43 drivers went green Sunday morning for 11 laps until the race was red-flagged for 25 minutes due to rain.

The day was only half over, but the race was finished, with NASCAR's decision to call Sunday's Coke Zero 400 at 3 p.m., leaving competitors and fans alike perplexed. After all, the same officials who called this race over also allowed February's Daytona 500 to continue after a six-hour rain delay that led to Dale Earnhardt, Jr's thrilling victory.

The day was only half over, but the race was finished, with NASCAR's decision to call Sunday's Coke Zero 400 at 3 p.m., leaving competitors and fans alike perplexed. After  all, the same officials who called this race over also allowed February's Daytona 500 to continue after a six-hour rain delay that led to Dale Earnhardt, Jr's thrilling victory.

Rain twice delayed Sunday's race before it was called after 112 of 160 laps on the 2.5-mile super speedway.

With a forecast from the National Weather Service calling for the likelihood of rain until 8 p.m. and the race past halfway - a day after it was scheduled to run - it tipped the scales for NASCAR to call the race.

"We've seen this weather pattern and felt it was the best interest of fans getting done and getting home," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, in a press release issued by NASCAR. "We put on 2 1/2 hours of solid racing

Pemberton continued in the press release, "When you looked at what was in front of us weather-wise, we felt it was best for all concerned that the race was completed."

NASCAR followed up in a press release stating there was so much rain in Turn 3 that water was trapped behind the SAFER barrier and coming down on the track. That could have delayed a restart if the rest of the track was dry, NASCAR said in the release.

The later the rain persisted, the longer it would have been to dry the track because it would not have been aided by the sun, NASCAR's press release added.

NASCAR's decision to call race angers fans

And some of fans who stuck it out Sunday were none too pleased with NASCAR's arbitrary decision to pull the plug on the race. 

"This is bull(expletive)," one angry Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fan from Upstate New York, who asked his name not be used, told Headline Surfer® after the race was called. "It's just bull(expletive). You pay all that money to fly here, stay in a hotel, eat in a restaurant and this is how they say thanks to the fans. It will be a longtime before we come back again."

And some of the fans who stuck it out Sunday were none too pleased with NASCAR's arbitrary decision to pull the plug on the race. 

"This is bull(expletive)," one angry Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fan from Upstate New York, who asked his name not be used, told Headline Surfer® after the race was called. "It's just bull(expletive). You pay all that money to fly here, stay in a hotel, eat in a restaurant and this is how they say thanks to the fans. It will be a longtime before we come back again."

 

Wrecks: 'Big One' and 'Huge One'

Race driver Busch upside down in crash in Coke Zero 400 at Daytona / Headline Surfer®Photo for Headline Surfer® /
Kyle Busch lands upside down in the second of two crashes in the rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway, wiping out nearly half the field.
 

The first "big one" happened on lap 20 when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. got lose near the front of the field,  Jeff Gordon checked up and got into Tony Stewart, who then hit Stenhouse, Jr. and spun him into traffic, collecting 16 cars.

The "Huge One" occurred on lap 98. Greg Biffle appeared to get into the back of Casey Kahne, who hooked Joey Logano. They spun into traffic. A total of 26 cars were involved in the accident.

Only 13 cars running on the lead lap were not involved.

There was a 5-minute red flag while the track was cleared. Pole-sitter David Gilliland was caught in the wreck on lap 98. He finished 35th.

There were 21 lead changes among 14 drivers. There were 6 cautions for 29 yellow flag laps. The average speed was 130.014mph.

Career best finishes for drivers at Daytona

Four drivers scored a career-best finish in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday:

-- No. 43-Aric Almirola's win bested his 3rd place finish at Bristol in April;

-- No. 3 -Austin Dillon finished 5th. His previous best was 9th at Daytona in February;

-- No.95-Michael McDowell's 7th place finish topped his 9th place finish last year in the Daytona 500;

-- No. 23-Alex Bowman finished 13th. His top finish had been 22nd at California in February.

Current 2014 Sprint Cup Driver Chase seedings

[after Daytona, race 18 of 36 if Chase seeding started after this race]
1) No. 48-Jimmie Johnson, 3 wins, 3rd in points
2) No. 88-Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2 wins, 2nd
3) No. 2-Brad Keselowski, 2 wins, 4th
4) No. 22-Joey Logano, 2 wins, 6th
5) No. 99-Carl Edwards, 2 wins, 7th
6) No. 4-Kevin Harvick, 2 wins, 11th
7) No. 24-Jeff Gordon, 1 win, 1st
8) No. 18-Kyle Busch, 1 win, 9th
9) No. 11-Denny Hamlin, 1 win, 14th
10) No. 41-Kurt Busch, 1 win, 24th
11) No. 43-Aric Almirola, 1 win, 21st 
12) No. 20-Matt Kenseth, 5th
13) No. 1-Ryan Newman, 8th
14) No. 27-Paul Menard, 10th
15) Np. 15-Clint Bowyer, 12th
16) No. 3-Austin Dillon, 13th

Editor's Note: Races covered despite denial of media credentials by DIS

Daytona International Speedway denies media credentials to internet newspaper / Headline Surfer®Though Headline Surfer® was informed in Friday the 13th phone call in June by Lenny Santiago, senior PR flak for Daytona International Speedway that its request for media credentials would not be honored, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper was given an infield ticket for the three-day series of events by a fan who wishes to remain anonymous so it could cover the races.
The DIS media credentials would have given Headline Surfer® access to the main media center, the garage, the piths and the grandstand and a better opportunity to interact with the derivers, team owners and track personnel. An appeal to NASCAR media marketing director Brett Jewkes went unanswered.
Regardless, the internet newspaper worked with the resources and sources available to get the job done. Santiago claimed he was misquoted in a story as his primary basis for denying the media credentials, but Headline Surfer® disputes his claim and furthermore he was unable to explain why he waited three whole months to point it out. Headline Surfer maintains the revoking of the media credentials was punishment for pointing out that the Speedway ands its subsidiaries had contributed to campaign accounts of incumbent office holders in municipal, county and state elections that led to taxpayer-funded projects for the Speedway.
The Headline Surfer® investigation has thus far revealed that the Speedway has invested at least $150,000 in campaign contributions for incumbents in select campaign accounts of incumbents seeking re-election in seats for the Daytona Beach City Commission, Volusia County Council, and seats in the Statehouse and governor's race. The $150,000 in private campaign donations has translated in upwards of $150 million in taxpayer-funded money for the Speedway.  
The Headline Surfer® reporter, Henry Frederick, is among the most experience journalists covering races at Daytona since the mid-1990s.
While working for the Daytona Beach News-Journal (1996-2004), he covered the October 2001 civil trial brought by Teresa Earnhardt that led to her successful win in a Daytona Beach courtroom in blocking public access to the autopsy photos of her husband, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, killed eight months earlier in a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500.
Frederick also won multiple journalism industry awards for his investigative report for the News-Journal on a shareholder's lawsuit, Ferko vs. NASCAR, fighting for a second race date for Texas Motor Speedway.
Frederick is among the top recognized journalists in the Sunshine State with more than 65 prestigious awards, including the James K. Batten Award for Outstanding Public Service. He launched the internet newspaper six years ago and though he had been granted limited media credentials previously by DIS, her finally received full credentials for February's Speedweeks, including the Daytona 500, allowing access to the main media center, the grandstands, pits and garage.
Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.