ARIC ALMIROLA – 2020 Las Vegas I Race Report

Event: Las Vegas 400
Series: NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
Format: 267 laps, broken into three stages (80 laps/80 laps/107 laps)
Start/Finish: 14th/21st (Running, completed 267 of 267 laps)
Point Standing:  17th (48 points, 37 out of first)

Race Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner: Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner: Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):

● Aric Almirola started 14th and finished 12th.
● Almirola pitted during the lap-25 competition caution for four tires, fuel and air pressure and chassis adjustments, and gained three spots on pit road.
● He noted that the Smithfield Ford had trouble turning after the adjustments were made.
● He pitted the No. 10 Ford at the end of the stage for four tires, fuel and adjustments to correct the handling issues.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

● Started 12th and finished 11th.
● Almirola aggressively drove to the middle of three cars and advanced back to the top-10.
● He pitted under green on lap 120 from 11th for four fresh tires, fuel and adjustments. He said his Smithfield Ford’s front tires needed more grip.
● Almirola was scored 11th after pit stops cycled through.
● He pitted at the conclusion of the stage for four tires, fuel and more adjustments.

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 161-267):

● Started 11th and finished 21st.
● Almirola pitted on lap 177 under caution for four fresh tires and fuel.
● He restarted 21st and quickly made his way back to the top-15.
● Almirola radioed to crew chief Mike Bugarewicz that he was contacted by the No. 6 car under caution.
● After noting tight-handling conditions, he cut a tire on lap 208, then pitted for four tires and damage repair.
● He returned to pit road two laps down in 28th before the caution was called on lap 221, where Almirola gained a lap back.
● Almirola returned back on the lead lap on lap 262.
● During the final restart, Almirola avoided a multicar accident and gained multiple spots before crossing the finish line.

Notes:

● Joey Logano won the Las Vegas 400 to score his 24th career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his second at Las Vegas. He beat second-place Matt DiBenedetto as the race ended under caution.
● This was Ford’s series-leading 13th NASCAR Cup Series victory at Las Vegas and its 687th all-time NASCAR Cup Series win.
● There were nine caution periods for a total of 37 laps.
● Twenty-four of the 38 drivers in the Las Vegas 400 finished on the lead lap.
● Ryan Blaney leaves Las Vegas as the championship leader with a three-point advantage over second-place Logano.

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

“We had a car capable of running in and around the top-10 today. We tried a lot of adjustments to hang in there, then the No. 6 car hit us under caution and we cut a tire with about 60 to go that put us a few laps down. That’s not the way we wanted to start the West Coast swing, but we’ll head to Fontana with our heads held high and brush it off.”

Next Up: 

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 1, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

CHASE BRISCOE – 2020 NXS Las Vegas I Race Advance

Event:  Boyd Gaming 300 (Round 2 of 33)
Date:  Feb. 22, 2020
Location:  Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Layout:  1.5-mile oval

Chase Briscoe Notes of Interest

●  The Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the second event on the 33-race NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule. It will mark Briscoe’s 52nd career Xfinity Series start and his fourth at Las Vegas. His best Xfinity Series finish at Las Vegas is eighth, earned in last year’s Boyd Gaming 300.

●  In addition to Briscoe’s three Xfinity Series starts at Las Vegas, Briscoe has made a NASCAR Truck Series start at the 1.5-mile oval. In September 2017, Briscoe started third and led the first 40 laps before finishing third in a Ford F-150.

●  Briscoe opened the season with a top-five finish at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. After taking the lead on lap 114 of the 120-lap NASCAR Racing Experience 300, the 25-year-old from Mitchell, Indiana, battled for the win in the closing laps before ultimately finishing fifth. It was his best finish in four Xfinity Series starts at Daytona.

●  Ford Performance Racing School makes its debut as the primary sponsor of Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford Mustang in the Boyd Gaming 300. Ford Performance Racing School is the only school to wear the Ford oval, and Ford is the only full-line vehicle manufacturer to offer product-focused experiential driving programs exclusively to the owners of its complete line of performance vehicles, from cars to trucks to SUVs.

●  The No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang carries a paint scheme honoring Carroll Shelby, an automotive jack-of-all-trades who raced and built performance cars. He won the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans as a driver and founded Shelby American in 1962. There, he took British AC roadsters and fitted them with Ford engines, creating the Shelby Cobra. That relationship with Ford led Shelby to develop the Ford GT40 and win Le Mans in back-to-back seasons as a constructor (1966 and 1967). Ford asked Shelby to take its new Mustang racing in 1965, and he promptly made it a champion. Today, the Shelby name is synonymous with the Ford Mustang, and Shelby’s iconic No. 98 – which he originally raced and then used during his time as a racing constructor – adorns Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang. In fact, the grille of the No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang was redesigned to feature the iconic Shelby Cobra badge, which will be carried for the remainder of the 2020 season.

CHASE BRISCOE, Driver of the No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang:

With Daytona now in our rearview mirror, Las Vegas marks the first true test of teams as they compete on an intermediate-type racetrack. How do you transition from pack-style racing at Daytona to more traditional racing at Las Vegas?

“Well, at Daytona the goal is to be there at the end. Stage points are great, but at a place where anything can happen at any time and wipe you out, you’ve got to set yourself up for a chance at a win. Now that Daytona is behind us and we head to Las Vegas with our Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang, there is no reason why we can’t be as aggressive as possible, trying to win as many stages and win as many races as possible. That’s what we’re going to try to do. If you do that, you get yourself in a position once the playoffs start where you have such a big points buffer you can have a bad race or two. Last year, we didn’t have that safety net just because we didn’t build up those points. From this point on this year, it’s kind of all in. You try to win as many stages and as many races as possible, and then kind of let the points fall where they may.”

Last year, the Xfinity Series championship was really in the hands of three drivers. Will we see that again this year and do you expect to be one of them?

“I think you’re going to have two, three or four guys separate themselves from the rest of the field and, hopefully, we’re one of those guys. It’s hard to say until we really get to the mile-and-a-half tracks, but Las Vegas will be our first indication as to where everyone stands. At Daytona, it’s really hard to tell who is going to be in that group, but when we get done with the West Coast swing, I think we’re going to have a pretty good idea of who you’ll have to beat for the championship. Ideally, there’s just one, and it’s us. But if the ‘Big Three’ is a thing, we aim to be a part of it. I feel like last year we were close to being in that conversation. If you look at just the last half of the season, we didn’t necessarily have the wins, but we were competing week in and week out. And just in the playoffs alone, I felt like we could’ve won four or five races, but weird stuff would happen. I definitely expect to be a part of that conversation if there is a ‘Big Three’ and you do that by winning a lot of races. Our Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang is certainly capable of doing just that at Las Vegas.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2020 Las Vegas I Race Advance

It might have been one of the most surprising and enjoyable moments of Clint Bowyer’s long driving career and as dominant of a qualifying session anyone could ask for by his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team on Sept. 14 last year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Bowyer earned the third Busch pole of his career by leading a sweep of the top four spots by SHR Ford Mustang drivers.

“I’m as shocked as you are,’’ Bowyer said, laughing as he sat down to address reporters after the qualifying session.

“I’m extremely proud of the effort. We’re on the pole, but 1-2-3-4 for Stewart-Haas Racing, that says a lot about our focus.’’

Bowyer winning races isn’t unusual. He’s won 10 times in the Cup Series, eight in the Xfinity Series and three in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series.

But winning a Cup Series Busch pole is another matter.

The Las Vegas pole ended a streak of more than 4,380 days since Bowyer’s previous pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sept. 13, 2007. His first career pole came at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway earlier that 2007 season.

It’s not like Bowyer is a bad qualifier. He’s started second 12 times in his career, including at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City last May, and he did win the pole for the non-points-paying NASCAR All-Star Race last May at Charlotte (N. C) Motor Speedway.

Bowyer admitted he was excited in his normal self-deprecating way in Las Vegas last fall.

“I almost forgot what to do at a Busch pole ceremony,” Bowyer said. “I got to sign my name on some sheet that I don’t think I’ve ever signed before, so I got to brag a little bit. I rubbed it in to all those guys. Something’s wrong with them when I beat them to a pole.”

The pole ceremony turned out to be the highlight of the Las Vegas weekend as Bowyer struggled with handling during the race, falling down a lap to the leaders. He took the wave-around near the end of the race and returned to the lead lap in 16th with fresh tires. On a restart, Bowyer and Paul Menard made contact, forcing Bowyer to pit lane for new tires and dropping him to 30th. He climbed to 25th by the end of the race.

He’ll get a chance for another pole and to better that September finish this weekend when the Cup Series returns for Sunday’s Las Vegas 400. It marks the second race of the 2020 season.

Last weekend in the 62nd annual Daytona 500, Bowyer started 29th and rode in the back of the field until 30 laps remaining before he charged to the front. The No. 14 Ford was fifth at the start of the first overtime but damage from an accident on the restart ruined his chances for victory and left him with a sixth-place finish.

This weekend at Las Vegas, Bowyer will pilot the No. 14 BlueDEF® Ford. BlueDEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) is one of the key elements in the process used by diesel engine builders to meet environmental regulations. DEF is not a fuel or fuel additive. Instead, when injected into the exhaust stream and passed over a catalyst, DEF helps convert harmful gasses into nitrogen gas and water vapor – two harmless and natural components of the air we breathe.

The Las Vegas race will mark the first of three primary races this season for Bowyer with Old World Industries, the parent company of the PEAK and BlueDEF® brands. PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze will serve as the No. 14 team’s sponsor in April at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, and at Darlington in September.

PEAK’s legacy in motorsports spans 40 years and includes leading drivers such as Dale Earnhardt, Michael Waltrip and Kyle Petty. Besides Bowyer’s No. 14 team, PEAK is a partner with the Haas F1 team with drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series and drag racing’s winningest driver John Force.

Bowyer believes the 2020 season starts with the West Coast Swing that begins Sunday in Las Vegas, continues to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and concludes at Phoenix Raceway.

“Daytona 500 is a race in its own,” Bowyer said. “That’s the one-time-a-year opportunity to win our Super Bowl. You have to put it all out there and do anything to win that race. Our season starts once we get out of Daytona and on to the West Coast. That’s the barometer of where everyone stacks up.

“The trickiest thing about the West Coast is you’re lying in the bed you made, so to speak. You race what you have the next three races. There isn’t much time to take your car back to the shop and work on the areas you’re struggling with. We can do all that once we get home from the West Coast. When you get back, you can reestablish where you’re at, get in the board room, get in the meeting rooms to start hashing out what worked, what didn’t, ‘Let’s go this direction.’ You know, start moving the ship together, pulling on the same rope.”

 

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

 

What do you remember about ending your streak of races without a pole at Las Vegas last September?

“I did not see it coming. That was a surprise to me. If I sat on the pole, that car was obviously a bullet.”

What is the mindset of drivers and the team after leaving Daytona?

“With the schedule changes this year, Las Vegas is the new Atlanta, being the first stop after the Daytona 500. Once we get the Daytona 500 out of the way, it’s Las Vegas and it’s down-to-business time. I know it’s weird to say that. Yes, the Daytona 500 is the first race of the year and certainly the biggest race of the year, but it’s so unique from any other racetrack. We get to Las Vegas and it’s that mile-and-a-half, fast track. The cars that are fast this weekend are likely the cars that will be fast all year. If you are going to run well in this sport, you have to be good at the mile-and-a-half tracks like Las Vegas. So these are pretty important races for all of us to see where we are at.”

Any predictions for the West Coast Swing?

“Somebody’s going hit it and somebody’s not. When you get back from that West Coast Swing, you get reestablished, you start down a build process for your cars and make them all the same, all across the board.”

COLE CUSTER – 2020 Las Vegas I Race Advance

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the second race of the season. Cole Custer will pilot the No. 41 Production Alliance Group/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for this weekend’s event in Nevada. A 2020 schedule change means the Cup Series heads to Las Vegas one week earlier than usual. Over the past several years, Atlanta Motor Speedway was the second race of the season.

Las Vegas is the first of three races as part of NASCAR’s West Coast swing. Vegas is the first 1.5-mile facility of the season for Custer and the No. 41 team. The 22-year-old has made one start at the intermediate track in the Cup Series. In 2018, he made three Cup Series starts in the No. 51 with Rick Ware Racing and finished 25th at Las Vegas.

Even though Custer had a trio of starts in the Cup Series in 2018, 2020 officially marks his Rookie of the Year campaign in NASCAR’s most prestigious series. He’ll compete with notables Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick, all of whom have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the fulltime transition to the Cup Series together.

The 62nd Annual Daytona 500 last weekend was the Ladera Ranch, California, native’s first Daytona 500. Custer started the prestigious race from the 12th position and ran as high as second before his night ended prematurely due to a mechanical issue. While the 37th-place result is disappointing, this weekend’s race at Las Vegas provides the opportunity to rebound for the No. 41 Mustang team. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has spent multiple hours in the racing simulator in preparation for the Las Vegas race weekend.

In the Xfinity Series at Las Vegas, Custer has five starts with three consecutive pole awards – September 2018 and both 2019 events. In total, he has two top-five and four top-10 finishes, along with 54 laps led at the mile-and-a-half venue. The Ford driver has an average starting position of 5.4 and an average finishing position of 7.2. Custer also has one Vegas start in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. In October 2016, he started and finished in the third position and led three laps.

This weekend the No. 41 machine will have a different look. Production Alliance Group (PAG) will share the No. 41 livery with Haas Automation for the first time this season. PAG is a premium live-event and creative development company based in Tustin, California. If you’ve ever been to a concert, award show, sporting event, or corporate event chances are you’ve seen PAG in action. From the lights to the sound, and everything in-between, PAG is the creative mind and execution behind it all.

What makes the PAG relationship unique with the No. 41 team, is President and CEO, Dale Sahlin met Custer in victory lane at Auto Club Speedway after Custer won the Production Alliance Group 300 Xfinity Series race there in March of last year. Sahlin and Custer formed a relationship which led to PAG increasing their presence within NASCAR to SHR’s Xfinity Series last season and now to the Cup Series.

Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by Stewart-Haas Racing 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.

No. 41 team crew chief Mike Shiplett has two wins at Las Vegas in the Xfinity Series, both in 2018. The veteran crew chief led Custer to a career-high seven wins in 2019 Xfinity Series competition – second-most in the series. In total, the crew chief from Amherst, Ohio added six poles with Custer, 17 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s, and 922 laps led in 2019.

 

COLE CUSTER, Driver of the No. 41 Production Alliance Group/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Daytona is a bit of an anomaly, but will the West Coast swing of races ‒ Vegas, Fontana, Phoenix ‒ be the litmus test to see where everybody stands before returning to the East Coast?

“Yeah, it feels like the West Coast swing is always kind of a good telltale sign of where you’re at as an organization. I guess. You get through Daytona but you don’t know exactly how things are going to go through your season. But, once you get to the West Coast swing, you really start to figure out who your toughest competition is going to be.”

I know you’re a Cup Series rookie, but you’ve been in NASCAR for a number of years now. When did you say, ‘You know what? I can make a career out of this?’

“I think when I won in New Hampshire in the Truck Series. That was a pretty big one. I won in the top three series, so it was pretty surreal and kind of the turning point where I was like, ‘I think I could maybe do this.’ So, New Hampshire was probably the biggest one for me.”

Your rookie class is pretty strong this year. What is it like to be with the guys you battled for Xfinity race wins and championships for? You all graduated from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series together.

“It’s pretty cool. I mean, it’s going to be a cool fight to race with those guys all year. At the same time though, you’re racing 37 other guys, so you’ve kind of just got to put that aside and focus on what you’ve got to do. But, I think it’s going to be exciting to see the points battle every single week.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2020 Las Vegas I Race Advance

Kevin Harvick is off to his best start since 2016 as he finished a respectable fifth in the season-opening Daytona 500. It’s his best finish in the Great American Race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway since he came home fourth in 2016.

Now, the rest of the season begins and it starts with the three-race West Coast Swing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and Phoenix International Raceway.

First up for Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang is the Las Vegas 400. It’s a place where Harvick has had a lot of success, as he has scored wins in 2015 and spring 2018 and a Busch pole last spring at the 1.5 mile oval.

In 2015, he started 18th, led five times for a total of 142 laps and beat runner-up Martin Truex Jr. by 1.640 seconds. In the spring 2018 race, he started second and dominated by leading 214 of 267 laps en route to beating runner-up Kyle Busch by 2.906 seconds.

Harvick has six top-five finishes and nine top-10s at Las Vegas. The 44-year-old driver has led 587 laps, has an average starting position of 16.4, an average finish of 14.2, and has completed 93.6 percent – 5,274 of 5,633 – of the laps he’s contested there.

He also has two 2004 and 2010 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Las Vegas and started three Truck Series races there in the late 1990s.

So experience is not a problem for Harvick at the desert track. He will make his 684th career Cup Series start and is looking for the 50th win of his career, which would put him in a tie with the late Junior Johnson on the all-time NASCAR win list.

A win would also extend his streak of winning at least one race in a season, which dates back to 2010.

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

 

Is the West Coast Swing the barometer to see where everybody stacks up, or does it extend beyond that because we do Atlanta, Homestead and then Texas after that?

“Yeah, it’s tough to know. I mean, you know what you need to work on after you get done with the West Coast Swing, for the most part. But it’s tough to adapt to what you need to do because of the fact that your cars are already built. Because of the fact that the logistics of everything that happens is so difficult for the teams, it’s really hard to make any adjustments. So you’ve kind of got what you’ve got, going through the West Coast Swing. You might be able to make some adjustments for Atlanta and Homestead but, really, you’re going to need that Easter break in order to get your stuff together and make the changes. And even then, it’s going to be hard to put things into play because everything is done so far in advance. I think, as you look at it, it just depends on where you are and how hard you need to push things in order to make a change.”

Describe the moment you knew you’d made it in NASCAR. Perhaps the moment where you’re like, “I can make a living at this.”

“You know, I think you’re pretty naïve to that up until you actually make a living at it, because making a living at it is a little bit different than probably what you think it is before you start having a family and being married and trying to figure out, you know, what a savings account is. You’re so used to spending every dollar that you had in order to buy a faster racecar or get yourself in a different position or do something that you hadn’t done before. Until you actually start learning that you have to live life, you’re pretty naïve to know what you need to actually make it and have a real job. For me, I left home when I was 19 years old to go get a job working on the Wayne and Connie Spears truck hoping to get a chance to drive one of their cars or their truck. And that worked out. And then you take the next step and drove the 98 truck and then it was to Richard Childress Racing. And I think once I got to Richard’s and actually made it through the first year of the Busch Series and we’re able to win a few races. And then we signed that Cup sponsor with America Online and had some things lined out to run the next four years on the Cup side. That’s really when I thought, this might actually work out. Before that, it was really just the dream, something that you thought you wanted to do but didn’t really realize what it took to live life at that point.”

Who was the one person who helped get you where you are today? Perhaps the person who’s most behind your success?

“There might be one person who’s involved in each segment of the progression of your career, but there’s just way too many. I went through every step of the progression that you could. That was designed from go-karts all the way up through Late Models, through all the regional touring series. And I would say it was a different person at every segment as you went to move up. So it would be hard to narrow it to one person.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2020 Las Vegas I Race Advance

This weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will make his first start at a 1.5-mile track with his new crew chief Mike Bugarewicz and their new-look team.

Since joining SHR in 2018, Almirola has posted top-10 finishes in three of his four Las Vegas starts with a best finish of sixth in the fall 2018 race. He finished 13th last fall. Bugarewicz has six previous starts at Las Vegas, the last five with SHR’s No. 14 team and driver Clint Bowyer, with a best finish of 10th in the spring 2017 race and a pole qualifying effort last fall.

Almirola scored his first three Las Vegas top-10s consecutively before last fall’s 13th-place finish and plans to carry the momentum into Sunday’s first of three races of NASCAR’s annual West Coast Swing.

In addition to his Cup Series starts at Las Vegas, Almirola has four Xfinity Series starts, never finishing outside the top-17 or starting outside the top-15. The Cuban American has also made three Las Vegas starts in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and completed all three events inside the top-10.

“I’m looking forward to heading to Vegas this weekend,” he said. “It will be a great chance to grow together with ‘Buga’ and the new team to dial in communication and get on the same page. We already learned a lot during Daytona Speedweeks and I’m really looking forward to seeing where we are competitively.”

Last weekend, Almirola and his new team debuted their talents at the 62nd running of the Daytona 500. The Tampa native ran strong in the non-points Busch Clash Feb. 8, leading during the closing laps before being taken out by a competitor and ultimately finishing 10th. Almirola started the Daytona 500 fifth after finishing second in his Bluegreen Vacations Duel. He raced in and around the front and led six laps until being involved in “The Big One” on lap 183. The Smithfield Ford team was able to repair damage enough to keep Almirola on track to finish 22nd.

Almirola will again sport the iconic black, white and gold No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang this weekend at Vegas.

Smithfield Foods, Inc., who will sponsor a majority of the races this season, is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. Its 40,000 U.S. employees are dedicated to producing “Good food. Responsibly®” and have made it one of the world’s leading vertically integrated protein companies. It has pioneered sustainability standards for more than two decades, including many industry firsts, such as an ambitious commitment to cut carbon impact by 25 percent by 2025. The company believes in the power of protein to end food insecurity and has donated hundreds of millions of food servings to neighbors in need. For more information, visit www.smithfieldfoods.com, and connect on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram.

Almirola is back with season two of his documentary series Beyond the 10 where fans can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access by subscribing to his YouTube channel. Episodes showcase never-before-seen footage of Almirola at the racetrack, on family trips, and “A Day in the Life” during the week, as well as all that goes into a NASCAR Cup Series driver’s season. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.

He enters the second race of the season 10th in the standings with 32 points – 18 out of first place. He’ll look to move up in the standings with another solid effort this weekend in Las Vegas.

ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What are your expectations heading to your first 1.5-mile track with the new team?

“I don’t really have expectations. I’m excited to get out there and I trust ‘Buga’ (crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) and our guys. It will be our first race together that requires a lot of communication and adjustments along the way. We’ve had speed in the past at Vegas, so I’m looking forward to building on that.”

How significant of a role do intermediate tracks play during the season? 

“It’s crucial to really excel at the intermediate tracks. We have so many of them on the schedule and, if you can get them figured out, they can make a huge impact on your season. We’ve seen it so many times where teams get something figured out at those tracks. Those teams start running up front every weekend. If you look at the schedule, most of the tracks on the circuit are intermediate tracks and the most important races if you’re in the hunt for a championship.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2020 Daytona 500 Race Report

Event: 62nd Daytona 500
Series: NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (2.5-mile oval)
Format: 200 laps, broken into three stages (65 laps/65 laps/70 laps)
Start/Finish: 5th/22nd (Running, completed 205 of 209 laps)
Point Standing: 10th (32 points, 18 out of first)
Note: Rain 20 laps into the Daytona 500 postponed the remainder of the race to Monday.
Race extended nine laps past its scheduled 200-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.

Race Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota) in overtime
Stage 1 Winner: Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-65):

● Aric Almirola started fifth, finished third to collect eight bonus points.
● Almirola advanced to third place on the opening lap and held his position until the red flag was waved on lap 20 for inclement weather, postponing the race until 4 p.m. on Monday.
● Almirola restarted the race fourth, made his way to the lead by lap 29 and led twice for six laps in Stage 1.
● The caution was called on lap 60 with Almirola in fifth.
● He drove the No. 10 Smithfield Ford to third before the stage ended.
● Almirola pitted at the end of Stage 1 for four tires and fuel. Other cars had pitted before the end of the stage, putting Almirola 20th on the leaderboard after his pit stop.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 66-130):

● Started 20th and finished 29th.
● The No. 10 Ford driver was scored 13th by lap 74.
● Almirola dropped to the rear on lap 80 without drafting help.
● He pitted under caution for fuel on lap 90 and came back through the pits for two fresh tires and fuel.
● Due to strategy, Almirola and his three Stewart-Haas Racing teammates ran in a pack toward the rear of the field for the remainder of the stage.
● Almirola pitted at the end of the stage for four fresh tires and fuel.

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 131-209):

● Started 23rd and finished 22nd.
● Almirola had raced up to ninth place by lap 150.
● The Smithfield Ford driver advanced back to the lead by lap 165.
● On lap 167, Almirola was hung out of the draft and fell toward the rear.
● He pitted on lap 171 for two tires and fuel to rejoin the field in 23rd.
● Almirola powered his No. 10 Ford Mustang back to sixth just four laps later.
● On lap 181, Almirola made a move after being left in the middle lane with no help that advanced him to third place.
● On lap 183, the No. 22 car had a big run and gave Almirola a push into the No. 2 car in an attempt to advance position. Unfortunately, the push was too aggressive, causing the No. 2 car to spin and resulting in “The Big One,” damaging the No. 10.
● The Smithfield team worked tirelessly to salvage the car in order to meet minimum speed and turn laps at the rear of the field.
● Multiple accidents occurred during the remainder of the race while Almirola continued to turn additional laps. He managed to gain 12 more positions before the checkered flag waved.

Notes:

● Almirola earned nine bonus points in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona on Thursday by finishing second.
● In the Daytona 500, Almirola finished third in Stage 2 to earn an additional eight bonus points.
● Almirola led twice for six laps to increase his laps-led total at Daytona to 28.
● Denny Hamlin won his second-straight Daytona 500. It was his third victory in the Great American Race and his 38th career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
● Hamlin is now tied with Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon for third most on the all-time Daytona 500 wins list.
● Hamlin’s margin of victory over second-place Ryan Blaney was .014 of a second, the second-closest victory in Daytona 500 history.
● There were nine caution periods for a total of 39 laps.
● Only 17 of the 40 drivers in the Daytona 500 finished on the lead lap.
● Hamlin leaves Daytona as the championship leader with a seven-point advantage over second-place Blaney.

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

“I really had a good feeling about our day. We had an incredible Smithfield Ford Mustang all weekend. Buga and the guys worked their tails off to give me the best car out there. I’m really excited for what’s in store this season. Also, my thoughts and prayers go out to Ryan Newman and his family.”

Next Up:

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Las Vegas 400 on Sunday, Feb. 23, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

COLE CUSTER – 2020 Daytona 500 Race Report

Event: 62nd Daytona 500
Series: NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (2.5-mile oval)
Format: 200 laps, broken into three stages (65 laps/65 laps/70 laps)
Start/Finish: 12th/37th (Mechanical, completed 174 of 209 laps)
Note I: Rain 20 laps into the Daytona 500 postponed the remainder of the race to Monday.
Note II: Race extended nine laps past its scheduled 200-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.

Race Winner:      Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner:  Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner:  Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-65):             

● Cole Custer started his first Daytona 500 from the 12th position and ended it in 22nd.
● On lap 12 the Haas Automation driver reported his Mustang was tight while he ran in the 20th position.
● The Haas Automation driver reported his Ford was starting to get snappy loose on lap 17 while he remained in the top-20.
● After the race was postponed due to rain, Custer restarted in 20th on Monday and visited pit road for fuel and four tires before the green flag.
● On lap 43, he took over the third spot.
● Just before lap 50 the California native remained in the top-20.
● Under caution on lap 60 the Ford driver pitted for fuel, four tires and adjustments, then restarted 15th.
● Custer ended Stage 1 in 22nd and did not pit.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 66-130):

● Custer started Stage 2 in the second position and completed it 28th.
● Caution was called on lap 91 after Custer narrowly missed the No. 00 spinning in front of him.
● He pitted twice under caution on lap 91 and restarted 30th with four fresh tires and fuel.
● On lap 100, Custer reported the Mustang felt like it was on and off the racetrack really hard.
● The Haas Automation driver reported the car was “feeling pretty good” on lap 123.
● The No. 41 pitted during the Stage 2 break for fuel and four tires before coming back down to top off with fuel.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 131-209):
● Custer began final stage from 21st and ended the race 37th.
● On lap 145, the Ford driver was in the 30th position working with his teammates in a secondary pack.
● “It’s getting a little tight, but not bad,” Custer relayed to the crew on lap 151.
● The Haas Automation driver made a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 169 for two right-side tires and fuel.
● Custer reported smoke in the cockpit on lap 171. Shortly thereafter, he came down pit road for the Haas crew to assess the issue.
● The crew lifted the hood and sent the No. 41 machine to the garage with an irreparable issue to end his day prematurely.
Notes:
● Denny Hamlin won his second-straight Daytona 500. It was his third victory in the Great American Race and his 38th career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
● Hamlin is now tied with Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon for third-most on the all-time Daytona 500 win list.
● Hamlin’s margin of victory over second-place Ryan Blaney was .014 of a second, the second-closest victory in Daytona 500 history.
● There were nine caution periods for a total of 39 laps.
● Only 17 of the 40 drivers in the Daytona 500 finished on the lead lap.
● Hamlin leaves Daytona as the championship leader with a seven-point advantage over second-place Blaney.

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

“It looks like we had a problem with a gear. Those things are usually pretty bulletproof. I don’t know. It’s tough because we just rode around all day to position ourselves for the end and it just didn’t work out. We had a good car. I think we probably were going to be in contention for a top 10 there, but it just doesn’t always work out sometimes.”

Next Up:

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Las Vegas 400 on Sunday, Feb. 23, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

KEVIN HARVICK – 2020 Daytona 500 Race Report

Event: 62nd Daytona 500
Series: NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (2.5-mile oval)
Format: 200 laps, broken into three stages (65 laps/65 laps/70 laps)
Start/Finish: 10th/5th (Running, completed 209 of 209 laps)
Point Standing: (3rd with 39 points, 11 out of first)
Notes: Rain 20 laps into the Daytona 500 postponed the remainder of the race to Monday.
Race extended nine laps past its scheduled 200-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.

Race Winner:      Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota) in overtime
Stage 1 Winner:  Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner:  Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):

Started 10th and finished 31st.
● The Busch Light #Pit4Busch Ford Mustang pitted on lap 23 for four tires and fuel, then restarted in fifth place.
● On lap 60, Harvick pitted on lap 60 for four tires and fuel and left pit road in 18th place.
● Just two laps later, Harvick pitted for fuel only.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-130):

Started fourth and finished 30th.
● The Busch Light #Pit4Busch Ford Mustang got shuffled to the back and then got minor damage when the cars of BJ McLeod and Quin Houff got together. Harvick pitted for minor repairs on lap 91 and lap 92.
● On lap 120, Harvick was 30th and said he too tight off of turn four.

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 131-209):

Started 33rd and finished fifth.
● The Busch Light #Pit4Busch Ford Mustang pitted on lap 120 for four tires and fuel and more repairs.
● Harvick came back to pit road one lap later for more repairs.
● He pitted on lap 185 for four tires and fuel and said his car was very loose.
● After a series of multicar accidents, Harvick found himself in fifth place on a green-white-checkered restart. He managed to stay in fifth place.

Notes:

● Harvick earned his 10th top-five and 15th top-10 in 38 career, points-paying NASCAR Cup Series starts at Daytona.
● Denny Hamlin won his second-straight Daytona 500. It was his third victory in the Great American Race and his 38th career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
● Hamlin is now tied with Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon for third-most on the all-time Daytona 500 win list.
● Hamlin’s margin of victory over second-place Ryan Blaney was .014 of a second, the second-closest victory in Daytona 500 history.
● There were nine caution periods for a total of 39 laps.
● Only 17 of the 40 drivers in the Daytona 500 finished on the lead lap.
● Hamlin leaves Daytona as the championship leader with a seven-point advantage over second-place Blaney.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light #Pit4Busch Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“We did exactly what we wanted to do. We just got a little bit of bumper damage and abandoned stage points to be around at the end to have a chance. We did at the end; we just ran out of pushers. I knew we needed to be fourth on that restart. The bottom wasn’t where we needed to be. We didn’t get a good shove, and then everything jumbled up and we were able to get back close to the front. It was a solid night for the Busch Light Ford.”

Next Up:

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Las Vegas 400 on Sunday, Feb. 23, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

CLINT BOWYER – 2020 Daytona 500 Race Report

Event: 62nd Daytona 500
Series: NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (2.5-mile oval)
Format: 200 laps, broken into three stages (65 laps/65 laps/70 laps)
Note I: Rain 20 laps into the Daytona 500 postponed the remainder of the race to Monday.
Note II: Race extended nine laps past its scheduled 200-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
Start/Finish: 29th/6th (Running, completed 209 of 209 laps)
Point Standing: 7th with 31 points, 19 out of first

Race Winner:      Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota) in overtime
Stage 1 Winner:  Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner:  Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-65):

Started 29th, finished 38th.
● The No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Ford Mustang avoided potential early race trouble by staying at the back of the field until the race was red flagged for rain on lap 20.
● The race resumed Monday under the late-afternoon Florida sun, and Bowyer continued his strategy of running at the back to avoid damage in case of an accident.
● Accidents on lap 59 eliminated a few cars, and Bowyer was able to dodge the calamity.
● In the closing laps of the stage, Bowyer reported his side mirror had broken off, so the team used the stage break to make repairs.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 65-130):

Started 38th, finished 27th.
● Bowyer started at the back of the field, continuing his conservative strategy and knowing “we can catch up to the front pack when we need to.”
● The Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) Fords joined up midway through the stage and safely ran together.
● No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Ford Mustang stayed clear of a lap-90 accident that eliminated two more cars.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 131-209):

Started 30th, finished sixth.
● Bowyer told his crew to expect to ride until about lap 150, when he would make his move toward the front of the field.
● Business began picking up at the front of the field as the leading cars ran three-by-three with 60 laps remaining in the race.
● The SHR teammates continued to run together in a safe area with 40 laps remaining as the laps wound down and tensions built.
● Bowyer and the SHR Fords pitted under green for two tires each and returned to the track with 30 laps remaining.
● The strategy moved Bowyer into the top-five.
● Bowyer stayed at the front for the remainder of the race, dodging several more massive wrecks.
● His chance for victory ended on a restart in overtime when contact from behind sent him to the grass, damaging the Ford.

Notes:

● Bowyer earned his 13th top-10 in 29 career, points-paying NASCAR Cup Series starts at Daytona.
● Denny Hamlin won his second-straight Daytona 500. It was his third victory in the Great American Race and his 38th career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
● Hamlin’s margin of victory over second-place Ryan Blaney was .014 of a second, the second-closest victory in Daytona 500 history.
● There were nine caution periods for a total of 39 laps.
● Only 17 of the 40 drivers in the Daytona 500 finished on the lead lap.
● Hamlin leaves Daytona as the championship leader with a seven-point advantage over second-place Blaney.

Next Up:

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Las Vegas 400 on Sunday, Feb. 23, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.