DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Bristol I Race Report

Event: Food City 500 (Round 8 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval)
Format: 500 laps, broken into three stages (125 laps/125 laps/250 laps)
Start/Finish: 20th/8th (Running, completed 500 of 500 laps)
Point Standing: 12th (210 points, 151 out of first)
Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Ty Dillon of Germain Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-125):

● Daniel Suárez started Stage 1 from the 20th position and ended the stage 12th.
● Suárez worked his way up to 14th when the first caution of the race was displayed on lap three.
● The 27-year-old stayed out and worked his way up to 10th before the second caution came out on lap 38. He pitted for fuel, four tires and adjustments to help his car’s tight condition.
● The Haas driver restarted 14th on lap 45 and worked his way up to ninth before settling in at 11th when the third caution came out on lap 118.
● Suárez pitted for fuel, four tires and adjustments and restarted 14th with two laps to go in the stage.
● Suárez didn’t pit during the Stage 1 break and began Stage 2 in the eighth position.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 126-250):

● The No. 41 driver started Stage 2 in eighth and completed it in 10th to earn one bonus point.
● Suárez worked his way up to sixth before his No. 41 Mustang tightened up, and he slipped back to eighth.
● During the fourth caution on lap 214 Suárez came down pit road for fuel, four tires and adjustments to help the tight condition. He restarted seventh on lap 219.
● He pitted during the Stage 2 break from 10th for fuel, four tires and adjustments. Unfortunately, Suárez received a speeding penalty and was sent to the rear of the field in 17th.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 250-500):

● The Mexico native began the final stage in 17th and concluded it in eighth.
● The next caution was displayed on lap 270. Suárez came down pit road for fuel, four tires and adjustments and headed back to the track in 17th. This time Suárez received two penalties – for pitting outside of the box and an uncontrolled tire – causing NASCAR to hold the No. 41 machine one lap on pit road.
● After restarting 18th, one lap down, Suárez hustled his way around the half-mile venue but remained one lap down when the caution was displayed on lap 375.
● The Ford driver pitted under the caution for fuel and four tires and remained one lap down in 17th for the restart.
● When the next caution came out on lap 415, Suárez was the beneficiary of the free pass. He pitted for fuel, four tires and adjustments and returned to the track in the 16th position.
● The next caution came out on lap 432 as the Haas Automation driver ran in 12th. He stayed out and restarted 10th on lap 439.
● The final caution of the race came out on lap 479 while Suárez was running in the eighth position. He stayed out, restarted third with 14 laps to go and ultimately finished eighth.

Notes:

● Suárez earned his fourth top-10 of the season and his third straight top-10.
● Suárez’s eighth-place result bettered his previous best finish at Bristol – 11th in April 2018. The Food City 500 marked his fifth career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Bristol.
● Suárez finished 10th in Stage 2 to earn one bonus point.
● Kyle Busch won the Food City 500 to score his 54th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his series-leading third of the season and his eighth at Bristol. His margin of victory over second-place Kurt Busch was .722 of a second.
● There were 11 caution periods for a total of 77 laps.
● Only 16 of the 37 drivers in the Food City 500 finished on the lead lap.
● Kyle Busch leaves Bristol as the championship leader with a 27-point advantage over second-place Denny Hamlin.

Daniel Suárez, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“Today was difficult. We made a lot of mistakes that we were lucky to overcome and finish in the top-10. I’m proud of that. We have to keep getting better, but it’s kind of good that we’re making these mistakes now so we can clean them up and be stronger in the second part of the season. We have a very good team and great racecars, and it’s always good to perform well. Today, we had a lot of speed. I felt like we had top-five speed at times, and when we’re not very good we still had top-10 speed and that’s where we ended up. After all of those mistakes it was still a decent day.”

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Richmond 400 on Saturday, April 13 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2019 Bristol I Race Report

Event:  Food City 500 (Round 8 of 36)
Series:  Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location:  Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval)
Format:  500 laps, broken into three stages (125 laps/125 laps/250 laps)
Start/Finish:  6th/37th (Accident, completed 3 of 500 laps)
Point Standing:  9th (246 points, 115 out of first)

Race Winner:  Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner:  Ty Dillon of Germain Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner:  Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-125):

Aric Almirola started sixth and finished 37th.
● On the outside of William Byron’s No. 24 machine in turn two on lap two, Almirola was pushed into the wall when Byron got loose and slid into Almirola’s No. 10 Shazam!/Smithfield Ford Mustang.
● The right-front corner of Almirola’s Mustang hit the wall first, and the impact bent the lower control arm beyond repair.
With Almirola unable to steer his racecar, his race was over.
● The DNF (Did Not Finish) ended a six-race streak of top-10 finishes.

Notes:

● Kyle Busch won the Food City 500 to score his 54th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his series-leading third of the season and his eighth at Bristol. His margin of victory over second-place Kurt Busch was .722 of a second.
● There were 11 caution periods for a total of 77 laps.
● Only 16 of the 37 drivers in the Food City 500 finished on the lead lap.
● Kyle Busch leaves Bristol as the championship leader with a 27-point advantage over second-place Denny Hamlin.

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Shazam!/Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“The 24 (Byron) just got loose under me. He struggled to get going on the initial start. He spun his tires and then was just loose and out of control that whole first lap. When we went down in turn one, he lost it under me and wiped us out. I’m pretty frustrated. You work all weekend, all week getting ready for the event, and to make it one lap is kind of uncalled for. So, I’m disappointed, frustrated, but life goes on. We’ll go to Richmond.”

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Richmond 400 on Saturday, April 13 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.

CHASE BRISCOE – 2019 NXS Bristol I Race Report

Date: April 6, 2019
Race Name: Alsco 300 (Race 7 of 33)
Venue: Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee
Series: NASCAR Xfinity Series
Race Winner: Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Results: Cole Custer: 3rd  | Chase Briscoe: 4th
Point Standings:
– Cole Custer: 3rd with 275 points; trails points leader by 46 points
– Chase Briscoe: 8th with 220 points; trails points leader by 101 points

Chase Briscoe / Nutri Chomps Ford Mustang Recap:
– Briscoe started third and finished sixth in Stage 1, earning him five stage points.
– The Nutri Chomps Ford started Stage 2 in fourth and finished seventh, earning Briscoe an additional four stage points.
– The No. 98 Ford started sixth in the final stage and ran as high as fifth with 50 laps to go.
– A caution with 40 laps remaining brought the No. 98 Ford to pit road for four tires and fuel.
– Briscoe restarted fifth and raced up to fourth position with 20 laps remaining, where Briscoe would end up finishing.
– Briscoe scored his third consecutive top-five finish and fifth consecutive top-10 of the 2019 season. 

Next Up: ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia, on April 12th at 7 p.m. EDT broadcast by Fox Sports 1.

 Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 98 Nutri Chomps Ford Mustang:                                                    

“This is how we should have been running all year long, it’s just taken a little bit of time for me to learn the cars and the team to figure out what I like. Overall, this was by far our best weekend start to finish and we showed that we can be a top-four contender. At the end I felt like I had the best car it was just so hard to pass. We didn’t get the $100,000 this week, but we will give it another shot next week.”

COLE CUSTER – 2019 NXS Bristol I Race Report

Date: April 6, 2019
Race Name: Alsco 300 (Race 7 of 33)
Venue: Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee
Series: NASCAR Xfinity Series
Race Winner: Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Results: Cole Custer: 3rd  | Chase Briscoe: 4th
Point Standings:
– Cole Custer: 3rd with 275 points; trails points leader by 46 points
– Chase Briscoe: 8th with 220 points; trails points leader by 101 points

Cole Custer / Haas Automation Ford Mustang Recap:
– Custer started first and finished third in Stage 1 to pick up eight stage points.
– The No. 00 Ford started 12th and finished fourth in Stage 2 to pick up an additional seven stage points.
– Custer started third in the final stage where he would stay for most of the stage.
– A caution flag was thrown with 40 laps remaining.
– The No. 00 came to pit road for four tires and fuel during the stop and returned to the racetrack in the fourth position after one driver did not pit.
– Custer would move back into third with 22 laps remaining, where he would ultimately finish.

Next Up: ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia, on April 12th at 7 p.m. EDT broadcast by Fox Sports 1.

 Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang:

“We didn’t have the fire off speed that everyone else had, but we were really good in the long run. It was just too hard to pass today and you just had to have the perfect scenario happen to be able to make it by someone. That scenario didn’t happen much for us today, but we know what we have to do to get better for the next time. We will work on it and be ready when we come back in the Fall.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Bristol I Race Advance

After a trip to Texas, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads about three hours northwest of the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) shop to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Daniel Suárez will pilot the red-and-black No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang for SHR in this weekend’s event at the .533-mile track.

Suárez goes into Bristol this weekend coming off a third-place finish last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The result marks his best career finish at the 1.5-mile speedway, as well as his best finish through this season’s first seven races.

“If we would’ve left Texas with a finish outside the top-10, I definitely would’ve been disappointed,” Suárez said. “We were extremely fast all weekend. It’s a huge advantage to be fast right off of the truck and that put us ahead at Texas. We’re definitely making progress.”

The solid finish also moved the Haas driver up to 14th in the point standings to round out the four-car SHR contingent in the standings. The top 16 drivers after the 26 regular-season races will earn a spot in the NASCAR playoffs.

Before venturing to Bristol this weekend, Suárez heads to Atlanta Thursday to participate in activities with Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United FC. The Monterrey, Mexico, native is a soccer fan, or fútbol as it’s called in his home country. He’ll get a tour of the Atlanta team’s practice facility, and even join a few of the players for activities on the field.

Then, this weekend, Suárez makes his way to the high-banked, half-mile, concrete oval at Bristol, where he has top-20 finishes in each of his four Cup Series starts with a best result of 11th in April 2018, when he also led five laps. He has an average Bristol starting position of 17 and an average finishing position of 15.5.

Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets. This weekend marks the fifth time Suárez has piloted the Haas Automation scheme.

The No. 41 team led by crew chief Billy Scott returns to the site of its lone victory last season. The only major difference on the No. 41 roster this season is Suárez. Last year’s No. 41 driver, Kurt Busch, outdueled SHR teammate Clint Bowyer on the final restart to capture the victory. The win marked Scott’s first win as Cup Series crew chief and was a also a big win for car chief Tony Cardamone, who is from Bristol, Virginia.

In the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Bristol, Suárez has six starts with four top-five finishes and five top-10s, including two runner-up results in August 2017 and April 2015. The 2016 Xfinity Series champion has also led 42 laps at the “Last Great Coliseum” in that series and has never started outside the top-10. He has an average Xfinity Series starting position of 7.7 and an average finish of 8 at the Tennessee track. The 27-year-old also two NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series starts at Bristol with 77 laps led, but both starts ended prematurely.

Ford has captured three victories in the first seven races this season. The new Cup Series Mustang also has four pole awards, two of those by Suárez’s SHR teammates Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick. SHR has two wins as an organization at Bristol, with Harvick’s August 2016 win to go with Busch’s win last August.

DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

We saw a couple of different strategies throughout last weekend’s race at Texas. How important are strategies?

“It’s extremely important, but the strategy doesn’t come on the last stop. In the middle of the race, you have to reevaluate your strategy and have to have your plan A, B and C. We saw at Texas there were a few different strategies. Overall, Billy (Scott, crew chief) and my engineers did a great job at Texas. It was a solid weekend and we just have to put ourselves in that position more often. I was excited for Texas because I knew I had a good car, but I was a little disappointed with third. Still, it’s a good start to building more speed. I was happy with third, but knowing we had the speed to give us a shot at a win is what makes me a little disappointed.”

How do you think the new rules have changed the performance of teams this year?

“Racing is like a roller coaster. The rules change almost every year and we have race teams that invest a lot of money into simulation and technology. Sometimes when we have a big rule change like we’ve had this year, teams make their own gamble on what they’re going to keep from the previous season and hopefully they get it right. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it OK, and other times you’re way off. When the rules change, you have to start somewhere. Eventually, everyone starts making up ground and will catch up to each other.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2019 NXS Bristol I Race Advance

Date: April 6, 2019
Race Name: Alsco 300 (Race 7 of 33)
Venue: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
Television: 1:00 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 3rd; trails points leader by 42 points
– Chase Briscoe: 11th; trails points leader by 90 points

Nutri Chomps has taken the lead delivering 100 percent rawhide-free dog chews that are the healthiest choice for dogs. Our rawhide alternative dog chews are fully digestible and veterinarian recommended. Nutri Chomps are vitamin and mineral enriched, high in protein and fiber, and low in carbs. Dog-Approved Nutri Chomps can be found at a retailer near you: www.NutriChomps.com.

You’re part of the Dash 4 Cash for the first time. Do you plan on being more aggressive this weekend than you normally would be since there is $100k on the line?

“I don’t think you are going to be anymore aggressive except maybe towards the end of the race. You have to continue to think big picture and be there at the end. You will more than likely have to win the race to win the bonus, so that is what our focus will be on.”

COLE CUSTER – 2019 NXS Bristol I Race Advance

Date: April 6, 2019
Race Name: Alsco 300 (Race 7 of 33)
Venue: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
Television: 1:00 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 3rd; trails points leader by 42 points
– Chase Briscoe: 11th; trails points leader by 90 points

Haas Automation, Inc., is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Gene Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1,100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets that provides the industry’s best sales, service and support while offering unparalleled cost-to-performance value.

You became a star with your intro at Bristol last year. Do you have something ready to top it this year?

“I grew up watching races at Bristol and everyone always looked forward to the walk outs and how everyone did something different. We don’t get to pick a song in the Xfinity Series, but I was able to say something on the mic. It’s something I don’t usually do, but now I can say I had a cool intro at Bristol. I don’t know if I’ll be able to top that, but we will see!”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2019 Bristol I Race Advance

Kevin Harvick is third in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points and has scored six consecutive top-10 finishes.

That’s Harvick’s most consecutive top-10s since last summer, when he had eight consecutive top-10s between July 14 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and Sept. 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The only difference is that last summer, during that stretch, he won races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and, in 2019, his win total is zero.

Harvick and his crew chief Rodney Childers are hoping to change that this week at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. And they’ve done it before.

In August of 2016, in his third season with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Harvick started 24th at Bristol but led 128 laps en route to victory. He also won at Bristol while driving for Richard Childress Racing in April 2005.

All told, Harvick has one pole, 12 top-five finishes, 19 top-10s and has led a total of 884 laps in his 36 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Bristol. His average start there is 17.1, his average finish is 13.2 and he has a lap-completion rate of 97.9 percent – 17,657 of the 18,127 laps available.

And his car this week will look a bit different as Hunt Brothers Pizza will be his sponsor for Bristol. Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang for SHR. Hunt Brothers Pizza has sponsored Harvick in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for several years and, last year, Harvick took the company to victory lane by winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Harvick has also won two NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races with Hunt Brothers as a sponsor at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth in 2011 and at Bristol earlier that season. So Harvick and Hunt Brothers Pizza officials certainly know where victory lane is at the .533-mile Bristol oval.

And it’s a big step up for Hunt Brother Pizza as the company has never sponsored Harvick in a NASCAR Cup Series race. It’s a “home state” race for Hunt Brothers Pizza, which is based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Harvick, Hunt Brothers Pizza and the rest of the No. 4 team are hoping they can “cook up” a victory this week.

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

Where is the balance between entertainment and competition after the changes announced last week?

“As far as the schedule, in my opinion, the 2020 schedule is a huge step in the right direction and I think those round ends and putting Bristol in there and having Daytona be the last race of the regular season, I think there’s a tremendous amount of really good things that are put in there and I think that will continue to get better as you go into ’21 and you see those track agreements come to an end at the end of ’20. The one thing I would like to see with that two-week gap in there, I’d love to see that first week include a mandatory shop closure of all the race teams to really rejuvenate the guys, gals and everybody in the sport to come back fresh and really get kind of a midseason break. You see them do that in Formula 1 and I really think, for the morale and just to keep everybody from getting just beat into the ground, I think that would be something that would be really interesting to see happen. But I think, from a schedule standpoint, we definitely have some really good changes that were in there. There’s always going to have to be an entertainment value and there’s always going to be a balance and I think, when you look at the penalties in qualifying, it still really doesn’t fix a lot of the things that I personally don’t like about qualifying. I can’t wrap my arms around being last to be first, but I love group qualifying and group qualifying and this package are just hard to marry together on a lot of these racetracks because you have to draft. So it’s a tough scenario to try to figure out, and we go out and try to do the best we can in the scenario we’re in and go from there and, if it changes, it changes. If it doesn’t it doesn’t.”

Is it hard to communicate inside the racecar at Bristol because everything happens so fast?

“It’s definitely loud and hard for the teams to hear. One of the hardest things at Bristol is just to see what’s going on. I have crashed at Bristol and gone back to watch it on TV and you’re like, ‘What in the hell were you doing? You just ran into four or five cars that have been sitting there for two seconds.’ But, Bristol is a very demanding racetrack. It’s very hard because things happen so fast, communication is hard. It’s easy to make a mistake or pile into a wreck. It’s easy to wreck somebody or to get into a fight. It’s easy to do a lot of things because there is just so much happening. It’s a tough place to race, to put it all together, and it’s mentally and physically exhausting.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2019 Bristol I Race Advance

Racecar drivers don’t easily forget.

No. 14 Haas Automation Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver Clint Bowyer remembers how close he came in August to winning his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

After struggling in practice and qualifying, in the race Bowyer showed early speed on the half-mile track moving from his 16th starting spot to third by lap 90. He held that position through the start of the second stage before drifting back to sixth.

The final stage was when things began to get interesting.

He started seventh and charged to the front, passing his then-SHR teammate Kurt Busch for second on lap 344 of the 500-lap race. During a caution about 10 laps later, the No. 14 pit crew returned Bowyer to the track in first place. He held that position for nearly every lap until a restart with 33 laps to go.

That’s when the night took a turn for the worse.

“I thought I got a good jump and, about the time I shifted, Kurt (Busch) hit me in the door and it just lit the tires up,” Bowyer said. “He didn’t do anything wrong – it’s just a product of it. Then, when I was on the bottom, I spun the tires really bad and they all got around me.”

Four more cars passed the No. 14 and Bowyer finished sixth despite leading 120 laps. It was a bittersweet performance, to say the least. He was mad at himself for not winning his third race of the season, but also happy with the progress the team made from qualifying to the race.

“It was disappointing,” Bowyer said. “You get a car that good and you get that close, you hate to not come home with it. But, all in all, for as terrible as we started the weekend and as bad as our day was on that Friday before the race, to lead laps and run in the top-10, I was pretty surprised, to be honest with you. In the grand scheme of things, it was a pretty good run for us, but you hate to give them up like that.”

Bowyer would like another chance when he races Sunday in the Food City 500 at Bristol, where his No 14 will carry the black-and-red paint scheme of Haas Automation, Inc. Haas Automation is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Gene Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

Haas co-owns SHR with three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. SHR has two points-paying victories at Bristol – Busch in August 2018 and Kevin Harvick in August 2016 – and has 10 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s in 62 starts.

Bowyer has raced well over his career on the Tennessee track, posting seven top-fives and 13 top-10s in 26 starts. He arrives at Bristol on a roll after a second-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The finish moved him to 11th in the season standings. At the first short-track race of the season two weekends ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Bowyer finished seventh.

A win Sunday would help him in the standings, likely securing him a spot in the NASCAR playoffs and earning Bowyer a trophy at a track he has long admired.

Bristol Motor Speedway is the third-largest sports venue in America and the seventh-largest in the world, seating up to 162,000 people. It’s a place Bowyer claims is a symbol of NASCAR’s success.

“Look at Bristol now versus what it was before,” he said. “I remember seeing videos of just a grass bank people are parked on, and now it’s just a wall of grandstands. Bristol has not only stood the test of time, it has grown with the sport of NASCAR and our fan base. Its growth has been our growth.”

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What are your thoughts after finishing seventh and second in the last two races?

“Last week in Texas was a shot in the arm for us. We were kind of down after Martinsville because we really thought we had a shot to win, or at least run top-three, and kind of shot ourselves in the foot. We struggled at Texas on Friday and Saturday but we had a hell of a comeback on Sunday. We were the best we were all weekend during the race. That’s the way you want it. My guys did a heck of a job last weekend. Bristol should be more of the same. We ran well there last time and the place kind of owes us one after August.”

Why do you like short-track racing?

“Man I like short-track racing. You’re really wheeling that thing, trying to keep the grip under your tires, forward bite. Trying to keep the thing turning. Fighting the balance of the cars. Fighting your crew chief all race long because you’re whining in the car, and he is tired of hearing you whine. But all those things need to come together to win that race and be successful.”

What is racing at Bristol like?

“If your car is handling well, it’s manageable. If it’s loose and you are midpack and there is someone in front of you who is erratic, you are tense and not breathing. You haven’t made it 10 laps and you are out of breath. You think, ‘There’s no way in hell I’m going to make it these 500 laps.’ Next thing you know, it’s lap 450 and you’re wishing it was 600 laps.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2019 Bristol I Race Advance

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 SHAZAM!/Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), makes his second short-track start of the season this weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. After finishing seventh last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, the No. 10 Ford team extended its streak of top-10 finishes to six and feels on the verge of a win this weekend at The Last Great Colosseum.

A departure from last weekend’s high speeds at Texas, Bristol provides a completely new style of racing that challenges drivers both physically and mentally.

“Bristol is a very challenging and demanding racetrack but, at the same time, it takes a level of finesse and rhythm,” Almirola said. “You can pound it in there and get after it and get really aggressive to maybe make some lap times, but it’s hard to sustain that lap after lap for 500 laps around that bullring. That’s one of the racetracks we go to that, when you look at it, you say, ‘I need to go attack this place,’ and you do. But it takes a finesse, which is kind of an oxymoron, trying to finesse and manhandle that racetrack. This is why we love short tracks.”

Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR’s most elite level, takes an elite level of physical and mental stamina. When Almirola isn’t in a racecar, he can usually be found cycling or working out. During the plane ride back from the previous race or down time between practice sessions, you can find him studying film from his last race, or in conversation with his crew chief Johnny Klausmeier or his engineers to find out how they can improve. His diet consists of high-quality Smithfield Food proteins combined with foods with other key vitamins and nutrients that help fuel his mind and body for the grueling race weekends.

“I try to stay in peak physical condition throughout the year,” Almirola said. “I believe it helps me in the car when it’s time to make split decisions and I like to just stay fit, in general. It makes me feel good that I know I’ve prepared myself to perform at the highest level every weekend.”

While the 35-year-old trains like a superhero to stay in peak conditions, he’ll have a superhero adorning his No. 10 Ford this weekend at Bristol for the second time this season. SHAZAM! is a DC Comics movie opening nationwide April 5 that is based on a streetwise 14-year-old who can magically transform into the adult superhero Shazam simply by shouting out one word. His newfound powers soon get put to the test when he squares off against the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. Like at Martinsville two weekends ago, when the SHAZAM! scheme first appeared, Almirola hopes his superpower this weekend will once again come in the form of Roush Yates Engines horsepower.

This season, Almirola has earned one pole, one top-five finish, six top-10s and has led 72 laps – surpassing his previous best over a season’s first seven races. He has one top-five and three top-10s in 19 starts at the high-banked, .533-mile Bristol oval since 2007. His best finish at Bristol was third in the Food City 500 on March 16, 2004.

In addition to his Cup Series experience at Bristol, Almirola has seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts with four of those resulting in top-10 finishes.

His previous short-track race this season was at Martinsville, where he started second, ran inside the top-five for the majority of the race and earned his first Martinsville top-10 with SHR. Ford’s third of three wins this season was at Martinsville two weekends ago.

The No. 10 SHAZAM!/Smithfield Ford team heads to Bristol fifth in the season standings – 65 points behind the leader.

Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 SHAZAM!/Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

How does Bristol’s track surface change during the race?

“Bristol is one of those places where the track changes throughout the run. Especially in the last couple of years, when they put the compound down on the bottom groove. That has tended to get rubbered up and get really slick as the run moves on and the cars migrate to the top of the racetrack. The top of the racetrack is not very good when it’s clean but, when it starts to rubber up, it actually gains momentum and gets faster, so the groove moves around a lot from run to run and throughout the run, and that makes it fun and it makes it exciting. As a driver, it gives you the option to search around and look for speed.”

How have Ford and Roush Yates Engines been and a key element to your consistent runs this season? 

“Never in my career have I been able to go to the racetrack every weekend with the opportunity to win. We have done that at every race so far this season. With the combination of all of the smart people at Ford Performance, Roush Yates and Stewart-Haas, we’re unstoppable. You see what the Penske team has been able to accomplish with Ford cars so far this season. It’s a matter of time before SHR catches up and we are running at the front every weekend.”