At Darlington (S.C.) Raceway this weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams will sport various throwback paint schemes. In keeping with the tradition of the past several years at the track “Too Tough to Tame,” Aric Almirola will pilot the No. 10 Helping Hungry Homes Ford Fusion for his throwback paint scheme.
The significance of the No. 10’s livery for this weekend’s event at Darlington is the celebration of Helping Hungry Homes’ 10th anniversary. Helping Hungry Homes is Smithfield Foods’ initiative founded in 2008 to focus on alleviating hunger and helping Americans become more food secure. Helping Hungry Homes provides nutritious, high-quality protein to food banks, school nutrition programs, disaster relief and community outreach efforts.
In addition to Almirola piloting the Helping Hungry Homes Ford, he will also represent the initiative at noon Friday at the Harvest Hope Food Bank in nearby Florence, South Carolina to make a protein donation. Friday’s donation is the fourth contribution Almirola has participated in this season. The event is open to the media.
In Almirola’s last 10 starts at tracks shorter than 1.5-miles in length, he has one top-five finish and four top-10s. He’s completed 98.2 percent of the laps raced on those tracks and led 44 in all – 42 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The other two laps led came at the most recent Cup Series event two weekends ago at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Almirola was working on another excellent finish at Bristol but was unable to complete all of the laps due to a mechanical issue after running in the top-five.
Almirola looks to improve on his best Cup Series Darlington finish of 11th this weekend. His best qualifying effort at the “Lady in Black” is third, which he earned in April 2014. The Tampa native also has two starts there in the Xfinity Series and one in the Camping World Truck Series.
The clock is ticking on the summer season, as well as the chance for fans to have their grilling hero’s name on Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion. Fans have the opportunity to continue celebrating 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.
Darlington marks the 22nd 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.
In 24 Cup Series starts this year, Almirola has earned an average start of 18.3 and an average finish of 14.0, with one top-five finish and 10 top-10s. He’s also led 115 laps this season, already a career best. Almirola rounds out the four-driver SHR contingent at 12th in the point standings.
ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is your favorite part of the weekend at Darlington?
“I like the fact that it is a laid-back feeling. When you think about racing back in the ’70s and ’80s, it wasn’t so corporate. It wasn’t so clean cut, it wasn’t what it kind of is today. It was more laid back and, kind of, ‘boys have at it,’ like they say, so I kind of like that. Doing it once a year is fun. I just go into it with the attitude where it is a very relaxed environment and fun, and it allows you to kind of goof around and enjoy the moment.”
Not only is Smithfield’s Helping Hungry Homes on your car this weekend, but you’re involved in the program. Talk a little bit about that.
“We can affect and touch the lives of so many people with Smithfield’s Helping Hungry Homes program. We go across the country and into communities where we race and make donations. Last year, I got to go to my hometown of Tampa, Florida, to give back. It’s nice to engage in the communities and help people out. Some of them were once my neighbors and that is something I’m very proud of.”
What would it mean to win at Darlington?
“The Southern 500 is one of NASCAR’s crown jewels. It is such a physically demanding track, it’s such a demanding track on the car, on the crew, on everybody. When you win at Darlington, you’ve done something. Darlington is just a really tough racetrack. It’s called ‘Too Tough to Tame’ and the ‘Lady in Black’ for a reason. It such a challenging place. To go there and have success, to walk away with a Southern 500 trophy is a bucket list kind of race that you want to win.”
What does Darlington mean to you?
“Darlington is an incredible weekend. It’s Labor Day weekend and what they’ve done over the last several years with the throwback weekend and everyone who participates and gets involved, it’s so much fun. To honor the past and the present is just a really fun weekend. It a special place and it has been on the NASCAR circuit for so long. All of the nostalgia really takes you back to the roots of NASCAR and it’s one of the places you really want to win at.”