● While the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang team’s short-track package has proven to be competitive this year, all eyes are set on improving at the intermediate tracks that comprise a majority of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule starting this weekend on the 1.5-mile oval at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Earlier this year at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Aric Almirola drove into the top-15 but was involved in an accident not of his own doing. A week later at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Almirola drove in and around the top-15 before bringing home a 16th-place finish. This weekend marks the first of two races at Kansas this season.
● The No. 10 Smithfield Ford team’s season has been a rollercoaster ride. It got off to a strong start during the first two outings of the season. Almirola won his heat race and started on the pole for the non-points Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Then, in the points-paying season opener at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the 39-year-old veteran won his Duel qualifying race and led 16 laps of the Daytona 500 – the most laps he’s led at Daytona in 23 starts. Almirola and his team were mired by bad luck at Fontana, Phoenix Raceway and Richmond (Va.) Raceway in subsequent races, unable to capitalize on newfound top-10 and top-five speed. He then led the field for a combined 28 laps during what were promising days at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, but a late-race accident ended Almirola’s day at Atlanta and he posted a 22nd-place finish at Talladega. His best outing of the early season came three weekends ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where he qualified third, ran up front all race long and earned a sixth-place finish and 42 points in the driver standings. Having experienced both ends of the spectrum of performance thus far, Almirola hopes Kansas will prove to be a turning point for the season and kick off a stretch of top-10s over the summer months, which he’s been known to do on multiple occasions.
● History at Kansas: In 22 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Kansas, Almirola has seven top-10 finishes and has led 69 laps.
● Driver Points: Almirola arrives at Kansas 25th in the driver standings, 189 points out of first.
● Almirola’s career: In 435 career NASCAR Cup Series starts, Almirola has three wins, 28 top-five finishes, 92 top-10s, four poles, and has led 1,018 laps.
● Fans will see the iconic white, black, and gold Smithfield Foods scheme adorn Almirola’s Ford Mustang this weekend. Smithfield has been a sponsor of Almirola’s for the entirety of his fulltime NASCAR Cup Series career – making it one of the longest-lasting partnerships in NASCAR. Smithfield 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.
● Beyond the 10 YouTube Series: In 2023, Almirola is continuing to share his life beyond the No. 10 Ford with season five 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 the show 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.
You’ve run in and around the top-15 at intermediate tracks so far this year. What are your expectations this weekend?
“Las Vegas was really the only chance we got to test our 1.5-mile program and we ran around 15th that weekend. I thought we actually had a good car in Fontana to start the year, but we got taken out when everyone stacked up on a restart and our day was done. I think we had a top-10 car in Fontana. Vegas is so much different of a track and is always tough to figure out. I like racing at Kansas, but the results don’t always show it. I think we just need to be patient and not over-adjust and just figure it out throughout the day as a team. We’ve done a great job of that this year, but have been caught up in unfortunate situations when we find the speed. We have worked really hard on improving this program on the simulator that Ford Performance provides us and we hope we can turn it around this weekend.”
Why is it so important to get this package right?
“Well Kansas, Texas, and Miami are all in the playoffs, and in order to be a playoff contender, you have to get this right. All of these tracks are different in their own way and we’ve seen more success at different 1.5-mile tracks throughout the years, but it starts this weekend in Kansas, to find speed and build notes for the future. More importantly, we need to have solid days to move up in the standings. We have to qualify well to put us in a position to earn stage points and put together another clean day like we had at Martinsville.”
What are your thoughts about racing at Kansas?
“I’ve always enjoyed Kansas. I know that I did have a really bad accident there, but in my mind I just view that as a bad accident. It just happened at a place. It just so happened to be at Kansas. It could have happened anywhere. I don’t really put that on Kansas and so, every time I’ve been back since then, it’s never really been a thought that’s crossed my mind. I actually enjoy going to Kansas. I have friends in Kansas City who I enjoy spending time with that makes it even more enjoyable to be there and, on top of that, I love the racetrack. The racetrack is a really fun racetrack to run at for me and I’ve had a lot of success there and had a lot of really good runs there.”