● 600 Miles of Remembrance: The Memorial Day weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.)Motor Speedway is one of the most patriotic events in sports, honoring fallen soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This weekend, Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Smithfield Foods, and Aric Almirola will honor Pfc. Adam Lee Marion of the North Carolina Army National Guard, who was killed during an attack on his forward operating base in Baghdad, Iraq,in 2008, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The connection comes from spotter Joel Edmonds, who knew Marion at a young age and is a friend of Marion’s father.
o Marion was with the 171st Engineer Company of St. Pauls and was the operator of a “Husky” vehicle, which led convoys to clear improvised explosive devices. Marion participated in more than 100 route-clearance missions in the Baghdad area.
o In September 2007, a week before departing for Iraq, Marion received a “Freedom Isn’t Free” tattoo on his biceps.
o Marion enlisted in the National Guard in March 2007 and joined the 883rd Engineer Company as a combat engineer. He graduated basic training and combat engineering school in July 2007.
o In 2018, 10 years after his death, the National Guard Readiness Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was renamed in Marion’s honor – to the Pfc. Adam L. Marion Readiness Center.
o Marion had a passion for helping children and, during high school and college, he volunteered and worked at the Children’s Center of Surry in Dobson, North Carolina. He would bring kids home from the Children’s Center for Christmas and carried that same passion overseas to connect with children while in Iraq. Since his passing, there has been more than $1.1 million raised via the Pfc. Adam Marion Memorial Golf Tournament, from which proceeds benefit the Children’s Center of Northwest North Carolina. On April 28, the 14th annual iteration of the tournament hosted more than 250 participants.
o Marion was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terror Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Combat Action Badge, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device, Army Service Ribbon, Army Good Conduct Medal, and Overseas Service Bar.
● Almirola and the Smithfield Ford team showed speed at 1.5-mile venues earlier this year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he crossed the finish line sixth, two weeks ago at Kansas Speedway, where he qualified seventh and ran inside the top-10 until a mechanical issue put him two laps down, ultimately finishing 26th, and last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth where he qualified eighth for the NASCAR All-Star race and finished 12th.
● History at Charlotte Motor Speedway: In 16 starts, Almirola has one top-10 finish and has led four laps.
● Points: Almirola arrives at Charlotte 12th in the driver standings with 322 points, 153 out of first.
● Almirola’s career: In 401 NASCAR Cup Series starts, Almirola has earned three wins, 27 top-five finishes, 88 top-10s, three poles, and has led 899 laps.
● One More Time: On Jan. 10, Almirola released a video on his YouTube channel announcing his retirement from fulltime NASCAR Cup Series racing after the 2022 season to spend more time with his family. His opening remarks were attributed to his grandfather’s mentorship. This year marks Almirola’s 11th fulltime Cup Series season. The official press release can be viewed here.
● Beyond the 10 YouTube Series: In 2022, Almirola is once again sharing his life beyond the No. 10 Smithfield Ford with season three of his award-winning YouTube series. Fans and media can subscribe on YouTube to see Almirola’s personality on and off the track. Episodes have already featured life as a dad, a husband and an athlete, and it gives fans a unique perspective on what goes on in the life of a professional NASCAR driver. Fans can also follow Almirola’s social media channels: @Aric_Almirola on Twitter and Instagram, and @AricAlmirola on Facebook.
● Almirola was the only NASCAR Cup Series driver to finish in the top-10 in this year’s opening three races. He finished fifth in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, sixth at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and sixth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Almirola’s top-10 streak ended with a 12th-place finish at Phoenix Raceway despite running inside the top-10 throughout the race.
● Smithfield Foods, Inc., headquartered in Smithfield, Virginia, since 1936, is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. Its 63,000 team members are dedicated to producing “Good food. Responsibly.®” Smithfield is one of the world’s leading vertically integrated protein companies. The company has pioneered sustainability standards for more than two decades, including its industry-leading commitments to become carbon negative in U.S. company-owned operations and reduce GHG emissions 30 percent across its entire U.S. value chain by 2030. Smithfield believes in the power of protein to end food insecurity and has donated hundreds of millions of food servings to local communities. Smithfield boasts a portfolio of high-quality iconic brands, such as Smithfield®, Eckrich® and Nathan’s Famous®, among many others. For more information, visit www.SmithfieldFoods.com, and connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
|Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:|
| How cool is it to honor members of the military who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom this Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte? “This is the coolest weekend all year. Being able to race and pay tribute to the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for me to live in the greatest country in the world is really cool. My dad was in the Air Force, so I know firsthand what the families have sacrificed. There are men and women who wake up every day and fight for our freedom and some of them lay down their lives for us. We get to do really cool things and I get to drive a racecar for a living without the worry of being attacked. We take it for granted that we live in a safe and free country. Honoring the military members who paid the ultimate sacrifice this weekend is the least we can do. We’re honoring a friend of my spotter Joel Edmonds, so there is an extra special connection. Adam’s family will be there this weekend, too. I can’t wait to meet them and hope we can keep his name up front all day.” |
What do you think about your paint scheme for this weekend? “Man this has to be my favorite one as far as looks go. That red, white and blue striping is just beautiful. We have run this similar scheme before, but it looks even better with the number placement. I’m glad Smithfield kept this one going for us and the fans.”
What does it take to win the Coke 600? “It’s a hundred miles longer than any other race we run, which provides a challenge in and of itself. On top of that, there is an extra stage, which gives us the opportunity to earn more points. The cars have less grip when the sun is out and they tend to slip and slide a lot more. As the sun goes down, the track gets more grip and we start going faster. That’s one of the very unique things about this race. What you have from a driveability and balance standpoint from the racecar at the beginning of the race is not what you have at the end. You’re trying to figure out what it takes to get your car to win at the end and you have to be good at all facets because there are a lot of points to be made.”