The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon this weekend. Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head into the event coming off of an eighth-place finish Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
Almirola has amassed three top-10 finishes in his last 10 starts at tracks that are less than 1.5-miles in length. He has an average finish of 15th and has completed 99.8 percent of all possible laps at those tracks. The last such event was the 11th race of the season at the Dover (Del.) International Speedway mile oval, where Almirola finished 11th.
In Almirola’s Cup Series career at New Hampshire, he’s earned one top-five finish and two top-10s in 15 starts. He looks to improve his average finishing position of 21.3 with the help of crew chief Johnny Klausmeier and the No. 10 Smithfield crew.
Before heading to the Granite State this weekend, Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield team and SHR teammate Clint Bowyer spent Tuesday testing on the new “roval” configuration at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The Cup Series will race on the new Charlotte configuration in October. It will be a cutoff race concluding the opening round of the Cup Series playoffs.
In 19 Cup Series starts this year, Almirola has accrued an average start of 19.3 and an average finish of 13.1, with eight top-10 finishes and 71 laps led. The 34-year-old rounds out the four-driver SHR contingent at 11th in the point standings.
Almirola has one NASCAR Xfinity Series start at New Hampshire, during which he started and finished in the top-five. The Ford driver has also made five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start as the 1.058-mile oval with two top-10 finishes.
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.
This weekend’s event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Sparta marks the 18th 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 Bowyer. Harvick also captured the non-points-paying All-Star Race win at Charlotte. Ford has 13 all-time series wins at New Hampshire and the manufacturer swept both races at the venue in 2014.
ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What do you like about going to New Hampshire Motor Speedway?
“It kind of takes you back to Saturday-night, short-track racing. It’s a mile track but it races like a short track. You go there and see the Modified division there and it makes you feel like when you were a kid and racing Late Models. It’s a fun track to race at, and I’ve had some success there and I’ve run well there in the past. I’m looking forward to carrying the momentum we’ve been building this season into Loudon.”
How do you feel about you chances of making the playoffs and, overall, how your team is doing this season?
“I’m still pressing to get a win. I want to win for SHR and our sponsors – Smithfield, Ford Motor Company – and everybody who puts their support behind us. It’s important to win, regardless of where we are in the points. I feel confident about where we are, currently, in the point standings. I feel like we’ve consistently outrun most of the cars that are behind us in points. I’m not overly concerned, but you can’t let your guard down. We still have to go out and continue to perform at a high level. We’ve been fortunate this year that we’ve brought fast racecars to the track every week and I don’t expect anything different in the near future. I continue to be impressed with our organization and our team. We keep bringing faster and faster cars each week. For me being the new guy at the team and working with a new crew chief (Johnny Klausmeier) and our whole team being young, we are built to grow. To see the success we’ve had in a short amount of time, it has me really fired up about the potential we have, and the foundation we’ve built keeps getting better and better.”