The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has gotten off to a start no one has expected. What was expected to be a Sunday afternoon delight became an under-the-lights spectacle as the Daytona 500 got delayed for over six hours due to severe downpours and weather warnings just 38 laps in.
But when the track was dried, and the lights came on, it became a completely different race.
At the end of the full 200 laps, the entire NASCAR community got a lift in their spirits and demeanor when it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulling into victory lane, taking home his second Daytona 500 win, and his first victory in nearly two years.
As for the Richard Petty Motorsports drivers, they had their moments. Here's the RPM Race Rundown from Sunday's action:
Aric Almirola: After starting 13th in the race, the No. 43 Smithfield Ford was strong all afternoon and night, making it to the front and leading laps.
Unfortunately, Almirola's luck ran out after the halfway point in the race.
He was the unfortunate victim in the lap 146 multi-car wreck that took out over 10 vehicles. His car was destroyed front and rear, with the decklid hanging on by tethers and the nose of the Ford Fusion torn all to pieces. Despite efforts to repair and get back on the track, he would be unable to keep up with the field, having to settle for a DNF, and was scored 39th.
Marcos Ambrose: Somehow, the Australian-born driver was able to avoid all the calamity at Daytona, but for the most part was not talked about during the entire race.
Some may consider the wheelman of the No. 9 Stanley Tools Ford an under-rated plate racer, and that could be the case as he made smart moves in the race and kept away from all three big wrecks that happened in the later stages of the race.
At the end of the night, Ambrose came home a respectable 18th, but brought the car back in one piece, which in a way was more important.
Both teams are now loading up and hoping to improve on their finishes next weekend as the series heads out west to the Phoenix International Raceway.