Almirola: Congrats from Petty a special moment

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 9, 2014 at 6:06 pm •  Published: July 9, 2014
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Aric Almirola waited two days to experience one of the highlights of his first victory in NASCAR's premier series.

It came during a dinner Tuesday night when he finally saw car owner Richard Petty, whose famed No. 43 racer Almirola put in Victory Lane on Sunday at Daytona International Raceway. It was the iconic car's first victory in 15 years and a span of 544 races.

"When he walked up to me, he gave me a hug and he told me he was proud of me," Almirola said Wednesday, reflecting on his meeting with Petty. "To have Richard Petty come up and tell you he's proud of you, and knowing that you got his No. 43 car back to Victory Lane, is really special.

"I'll take that with me for the rest of my life."

Petty, also known as "The King," is a seven-time series champion who won a record 200 races. Almirola said Petty deserves a lot of credit for making his victory possible.

"The reality is that from 1999 and even before 1999, through that time period and over the last 15 years, Richard Petty Motorsports has not been a race team that was really capable of winning races all the time," Almirola said. "They were doing all they could to just get to the race track."

It was Petty, he said, who finally realized the team could no longer keep its operation in his hometown of Randleman, North Carolina, but had to move to the Charlotte area, where most teams have shops.

"That was the start of them basically remaking the race team," said Almirola, in his third year with RPM. He was contending for a victory at Kansas last season, running side by side with Jimmie Johnson, and dueling Carl Edwards at Bristol this year, but a blown right front tire ruined both runs.