Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team head back to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for the second race of the season at the 2.5-mile superspeedway oval. The season-opening Daytona 500 there left Almirola heartbroken. He was leading on the last lap when contact with another competitor sent him up the racetrack, causing him to lose the most prestigious race of the year with just a half a lap remaining.
The team heads to Daytona this weekend with momentum from last weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, where the 34-year-old Almirola led a career high 70 laps before being relegated to a 25th-place finish as the result of two loose wheels. Almirola won the first stage of the 267-lap race to earn 10 bonus points and one playoff point.
Even though February’s Daytona 500 had a disappointing ending for the Smithfield team, Almirola has another chance to visit victory lane at “The World Center of Racing.” Almirola does know his way there. In the July 2014 race, the Tampa native led 14 laps and drove his Ford Fusion to victory in the rain-shortened event to earn his first career Cup Series win.
In addition to being behind the wheel of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion, Almirola will also participate in a charitable donation this week. Almirola will join Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, for an event at the Publix supermarket located at 1500 Beville Road in Daytona Beach Thursday. The event begins at 11 a.m. EDT with Almirola helping Smithfield present a protein donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida as part of the company’s 2018 Helping Hungry Homes® hunger-relief tour.
On the racetrack this season, Almirola has garnered seven top-10 finishes, Sunday’s stage win, has led a total of 71 laps, an average finish of 12.5 and an average start of 19.3. His superspeedway results show an 11th-place finish at the Daytona 500 and a seventh-place finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in April.
Almirola will make his 14th Cup Series start at Daytona this weekend. He also has 10 starts in the Xfinity Series at the track located along Florida’s Central Coast. In fact, Almirola started on the pole in his first Xfinity Series outing in July 2007. Additionally, the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver has also captured one win in the Xfinity Series while piloting the No. 98 Biagi-Den Beste Ford Mustang in July 2016. Almirola has three Daytona starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with a best finish of 12th.
With summer in full swing, fans have the opportunity to celebrate 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.
Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion had a different look for May’s non-points-paying NASCAR All-Star Race. Waffle House appeared on the car to help kick off its first-ever “Who’s Your All-Star?” sweepstakes in conjunction with Smithfield Foods. Fans can enter the sweepstakes by snapping a photo with their favorite Waffle House associate and sharing via Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #WhosYourAllStar. The top-10 associates and the customers who nominated them will receive special recognition and a Waffle House gift card. One grand-prize customer and associate winner will each receive a VIP experience to the NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
This weekend’s event at Daytona marks the 16th 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.
Ford has earned eight wins so far this season with Almirola’s SHR teammates earning seven of the victories for the blue oval – five by Kevin Harvick and two by Clint Bowyer. Harvick also captured the non-points-paying All-Star Race win at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The manufacturer has 37 all-time series wins Daytona, and has earned eight wins in the last 16 races at the track.
ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How do hot temperatures and high humidity, like we’re starting to see in the current stretch of midsummer races affect the racecar?
“Hot temperatures and high heat at restrictor-plate races, especially, make them that much more difficult. You’re already really, really focused on everything going on and it’s very mentally draining. It’s like a high-speed chess match and you’re constantly on pins and needles, and constantly watching both sides of your car and you’re watching everything happening in front of you. You’re really tense all day long and the heat on top of it just gives you one more thing to think about and you have to try and block that out. You have to try and forget about the fact that you’re boiling inside the car and focus on everything going on around you.”
How was it to win the July Daytona race in 2014?
“The end goal is not just to make it to the top and be there. The end goal is to be successful at the highest level. To win at Daytona stamped a little bit of validation on the fact that I made it to the top and I won at the highest level of stock car racing in the United States. That win was a career highlight and I hope to add another win.”
Do you have any memories of the July Daytona race when you were growing up?
“I remember going to the Firecracker 400 in July at Daytona. We’d leave Tampa and stop at Disney World for a few days and then head to Daytona for the race. So I grew up going to Daytona and I loved it. Getting the opportunity to race at Daytona is special in itself, but then to be able to win my first Cup race was a very special day. I would say that is my proudest moment in racing so far. I still have a lot of races I want to win and a championship someday, though.”
Your first Xfinity Series win was the first time you were able to have your family in victory lane with you. How cool was it to have that experience with them?
“To see the smile on my kid’s face and the tears in my wife’s eyes, that was special. To have them there when I won my first Xfinity race, that was so cool. To see the reaction on my kids’ faces when they got Gatorade sprayed all over them and they got soaking wet – they were confused and startled but, at the same time, happy and elated. It was really cool.”