Aric Almirola Looking for Redemption at Daytona

 Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team head back to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for the second race of the season at the 2.5-mile superspeedway oval. The season-opening Daytona 500 there left Almirola heartbroken. He was leading on the last lap when contact with another competitor sent him up the racetrack, causing him to lose the most prestigious race of the year with just a half a lap remaining.
The team heads to Daytona this weekend with momentum from last weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, where the 34-year-old Almirola led a career high 70 laps before being relegated to a 25th-place finish as the result of two loose wheels. Almirola won the first stage of the 267-lap race to earn 10 bonus points and one playoff point.
Even though February’s Daytona 500 had a disappointing ending for the Smithfield team, Almirola has another chance to visit victory lane at “The World Center of Racing.” Almirola does know his way there. In the July 2014 race, the Tampa native led 14 laps and drove his Ford Fusion to victory in the rain-shortened event to earn his first career Cup Series win.
In addition to being behind the wheel of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion, Almirola will also participate in a charitable donation this week. Almirola will join Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, for an event at the Publix supermarket located at 1500 Beville Road in Daytona Beach Thursday. The event begins at 11 a.m. EDT with Almirola helping Smithfield present a protein donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida as part of the company’s 2018 Helping Hungry Homes® hunger-relief tour.
On the racetrack this season, Almirola has garnered seven top-10 finishes, Sunday’s stage win, has led a total of 71 laps, an average finish of 12.5 and an average start of 19.3. His superspeedway results show an 11th-place finish at the Daytona 500 and a seventh-place finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in April.
Almirola will make his 14th Cup Series start at Daytona this weekend. He also has 10 starts in the Xfinity Series at the track located along Florida’s Central Coast. In fact, Almirola started on the pole in his first Xfinity Series outing in July 2007. Additionally, the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver has also captured one win in the Xfinity Series while piloting the No. 98 Biagi-Den Beste Ford Mustang in July 2016. Almirola has three Daytona starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with a best finish of 12th.

 

With summer in full swing, fans have the opportunity to celebrate the grilling season by entering Smithfield’s “Hero of the Grill” contest that Almirola and five-time world-champion barbecue pitmaster Tuffy Stone helped launch earlier this year. Fans are encouraged to nominate their favorite grill hero by visiting SmithfieldGetGrilling.com. One “Hero of the Grill” nominee will win $5,000. Plus, the first 10,000 nominees will have the chance to see their name featured on Almirola’s No. 10 Smithfield Ford at Richmond (Va.) Raceway in September.
Fans can also enter for their chance to win Smithfield’s Smoke Machine Mustang designed by team co-owner Tony Stewart with the help of drifting champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. They helped create a one-of-a-kind Ford Mustang RTR Spec 3 that will be given away to one lucky fan. Fans can register for their chance to win the suped-up Mustang and a trip to November’s Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead by visiting SmithfieldRacing.com, or by texting SMOKE to 82257.

 

Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion had a different look for May’s non-points-paying NASCAR All-Star Race. Waffle House appeared on the car to help kick off its first-ever “Who’s Your All-Star?” sweepstakes in conjunction with Smithfield Foods. Fans can enter the sweepstakes by snapping a photo with their favorite Waffle House associate and sharing via Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #WhosYourAllStar. The top-10 associates and the customers who nominated them will receive special recognition and a Waffle House gift card. One grand-prize customer and associate winner will each receive a VIP experience to the NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
This weekend’s event at Daytona marks the 16th points-paying event during which the Smithfield livery has adorned Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion. Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, which is based approximately five hours northeast of SHR headquarters in Smithfield, Virginia, is in its seventh season with Almirola and its first with SHR. Founded in 1936, Smithfield is a leading provider of high-quality pork products, with a vast product portfolio including smoked meats, hams, bacon, sausage, ribs, and a wide variety of fresh pork cuts.

 

Ford has earned eight wins so far this season with Almirola’s SHR teammates earning seven of the victories for the blue oval – five by Kevin Harvick and two by Clint Bowyer. Harvick also captured the non-points-paying All-Star Race win at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The manufacturer has 37 all-time series wins Daytona, and has earned eight wins in the last 16 races at the track.

 

 

Aric Almirola: Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
 

How do hot temperatures and high humidity, like we’re starting to see in the current stretch of midsummer races affect the racecar?
“Hot temperatures and high heat at restrictor-plate races, especially, make them that much more difficult. You’re already really, really focused on everything going on and it’s very mentally draining. It’s like a high-speed chess match and you’re constantly on pins and needles, and constantly watching both sides of your car and you’re watching everything happening in front of you. You’re really tense all day long and the heat on top of it just gives you one more thing to think about and you have to try and block that out. You have to try and forget about the fact that you’re boiling inside the car and focus on everything going on around you.”
How was it to win the July Daytona race in 2014?
“The end goal is not just to make it to the top and be there. The end goal is to be successful at the highest level. To win at Daytona stamped a little bit of validation on the fact that I made it to the top and I won at the highest level of stock car racing in the United States. That win was a career highlight and I hope to add another win.”
Do you have any memories of the July Daytona race when you were growing up?
“I remember going to the Firecracker 400 in July at Daytona. We’d leave Tampa and stop at Disney World for a few days and then head to Daytona for the race. So I grew up going to Daytona and I loved it. Getting the opportunity to race at Daytona is special in itself, but then to be able to win my first Cup race was a very special day. I would say that is my proudest moment in racing so far. I still have a lot of races I want to win and a championship someday, though.”
Your first Xfinity Series win was the first time you were able to have your family in victory lane with you. How cool was it to have that experience with them?
“To see the smile on my kid’s face and the tears in my wife’s eyes, that was special. To have them there when I won my first Xfinity race, that was so cool. To see the reaction on my kids’ faces when they got Gatorade sprayed all over them and they got soaking wet – they were confused and startled but, at the same time, happy and elated. It was really cool.”

Daytona International Speedway Notes of Interest:
  • Aric Almirola will make his 14th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway this weekend. Saturday night’s event will mark Almirola’s 262nd career Cup Series race.
  • In addition to piloting the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion at the superspeedway, Almirola will also participate in a charitable donation this week. Almirola will join Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, for an event at the Publix supermarket located at 1500 Beville Road in Daytona Beach Thursday. The event begins at 11 a.m. EDT with Almirola helping Smithfield present a protein donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida at part of the company’s 2018 Helping Hungry Homes® hunger-relief tour. The event is open to the media.
  • The 34-year-old has an average starting position of 23.5 and an average finishing position of 20.3 at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Almirola has one Cup Series win at DaytonaBeach, which he earned in July 2014 after leading 14 laps.
  • In addition to his Cup Series win at Daytona, Almirola also has one win in the Xfinity Series. He captured the win in July 2016 while piloting the No. 98 Ford Mustang for Biagi-Den Beste Racing.
  • Last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Joilet, Almirola led a Cup Series career-high 70 laps during the 267-lap event. The Tampa native also earned 10 bonus points and one playoff point for winning Stage 1 of the race.
  • Almirola will sign autographs at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Fanatics Stewart-Haas Racing merchandise hauler located in the fan midway at Daytona, with 100 wristbands to be distributed for the session. Fan cans pick up the wristbands earlier in the day at the merchandise hauler.
  • Waffle House has teamed up with Smithfield on the No. 10 Ford Fusion for fans to participate in a new sweepstakes. The Norcross, Georgia-based restaurant has partnered with Smithfield to launch its “Who’s Your All-Star?” sweepstakes. Customers are encouraged to take a photo with their favorite Waffle House associate and post them on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #WhosYourAllStar. One grand prize winning customer and associate will each win a VIP experience at the Ford EcoBoost 400, NASCAR’s season finale in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • Fans can enter for their chance to win the Smithfield Smoke Machine Ford Mustangdesigned by team co-owner Tony Stewart and drifting champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. for Smithfield’s Mustang giveaway. Fans can enter for their chance to win the tricked-out street car and a trip to November’s Ford Championship weekend at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway by visiting SmithfieldRacing.com or by texting SMOKE to 82257.
  • Smithfield has launched its summer “Hero of the Grill” contest, during which fans are encouraged to submit their grilling hero nominee and for a chance to win $5,000. The first 10,000 nominees will have the chance to have their name featured on Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion at Richmond (Va.) Raceway in September. To nominate a grilling hero, visit SmithfieldGetGrilling.com.
  • Ford has eight wins this season with seven of the victories coming from the SHR camp – Kevin Harvick with five and Clint Bowyer with two. Harvick also captured the $1 million grand prize with a victory at Charlotte’s All-Star Race.
  • Johnny Klausmeier is in his first full-time season as a Cup Series crew chief. The native of Perry Hall, Maryland transitioned from an engineer to Almirola’s crew chief for the 2018 season. Klausmeier has one win as a substitute crew chief while filling in for Tony Gibson at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in June 2016. As a race engineer at SHR, Klausmeier has worked with drivers Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick and, most recently, Kurt Busch.
  • Smithfield joined SHR this season and will be the primary partner for the majority of the season on the No. 10 Ford Fusion piloted by Almirola. Founded in 1936, Smithfield is a leading provider of high-quality pork products, with a vast product portfolio including smoked meats, hams, bacon, sausage, ribs, and a wide variety of fresh pork cuts.
  • The 2018 season marks the 10th anniversary of SHR. The Kannapolis, North-Carolina-based team is co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas and has recorded 46 victories and 39 poles since its inception in 2009. Stewart won the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series title and Harvick gave SHR its second title in 2014. SHR’s Busch won last year’s Daytona 500, and Harvick won June 25 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and Nov. 5 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Harvick scored back-to-back-to-back victories – Feb. 25 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, March 4 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and March 11 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix – then back-to-back wins May 6 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, and May 12 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Harvick also won the non-points-paying Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte. Bowyer scored his two wins March 26 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and June 10 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

TSC PR/Photo Credit Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

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