● History at Martinsville: In 29 starts, Aric Almirola has earned eight top-10 finishes, one top-five and has led 75 laps on the .526-mile, paperclip-shaped Martinsville (Va.) Speedway oval. He has earned a top-five starting spot on eight occasions. Almirola has five starts there in the NASCAR Truck Series with a best finish of fifth.
● In April, Almirola and all of Stewart-Haas Racing executed their best Cup Series race as a team at Martinsville. After Ryan Preece earned the pole in the No. 41 Ford, Almirola, Chase Briscoe and Kevin Harvick ran inside the top-five during the race and three of the four cars led laps. Almirola started third and crossed the finish line sixth – his second-best finish of the year.
● Martinsville marks the penultimate race of the 2023 season. While the year was filled with ups and downs, Almirola managed to lead more laps this season than the previous two seasons while also earning two poles – the most he’s earned in a single season. His average start of 18.3 also bettered that of his previous two seasons – of 19.1 in 2021 and 19.4 in 2022.
● In Almirola’s last 10 races at venues less than a mile in length, he has captured four top-10 finishes and one pole, and led 36 laps.
● In July of 2021, the No. 10 driver brought home the win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, which has similar characteristics to Martinsville’s paperclip shaped oval.
● Driver Standings: Almirola arrives at Martinsville 22nd in the driver standings.
● Last weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Almirola drove his Smithfield Ford Mustang from 30th to a ninth-place finish. It was his fourth top-10 of the season and fifth at Homestead.
● Almirola’s career: In 459 career NASCAR Cup Series starts, Almirola has three wins, 28 top-five finishes, 93 top-10s, five poles, and has led 1,068 laps.
● 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.
You drove from 30th to ninth last weekend. How good did it feel to have something go your way after such an up-and-down season?
“It’s exactly what we needed. We missed it big in qualifying. I made a mistake on pit road and got us behind, but a caution came out and finally went in our favor for once. All year, I feel like we have been on the bad side of luck, so that caution kind of got us back in the game where I could restart 12th and pass some cars. I love Homestead, running up on the wall and just having options to pass cars. Track position was definitely important, but we made an air-pressure adjustment at the end that was exactly what we needed.”
You claim Martinsville earlier this year was the one that got away. Why is that?
“Well, we ran up front all day and had arguably the fastest car in the field for most of the day. The balance kind of shifted on us toward the middle of the race and got us a few spots back, but we stayed up in the top-five all day. I made the call to restart on the outside, hoping I could clear the inside car and sail off to a win, but we couldn’t clear him and we faded back a few spots before I could get back in line. I feel like it was one that got away, one that could have put us in the playoffs early and set us up for a successful season. We always have a good car at Martinsville as an organization. I enjoy this style of racing because it puts it in the driver’s hands. You get aggressive and have to muscle your way up there. Qualifying will always be extremely important at Martinsville, too, and running a clean race with no penalties to put you behind is key. Track position was so important in the spring and it’s going to be important again. I enjoy going to Martinsville this time of the year, when it’s cold and you’re up in the mountains. It’s just a fun time of the year with two races to go.”