Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Bacon for Life Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) continue on to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for the second race in the Round of 12 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Almirola enters the weekend coming off of a 13th-place finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, where he led 64 laps and was leading until a late-race restart shuffled him back.
It’s fitting that Almirola will pilot a bacon-themed Smithfield Ford Fusion this weekend. Talladega is a fan favorite when it comes to camping in its infield on NASCAR weekends, and what could be more synonymous with camping than bacon? The special paint scheme coincides with Smithfield’s Bacon for Life promotion. Yes, it’s possible to win bacon for life. To enter the sweepstakes, find specially marked packages of Smithfield bacon in stores and enter the unique code provided in the package by visiting Smithfield.com/BaconForLife. More than 1,000 runners-up will be awarded select bacon merchandise during the sweepstakes, which runs until Dec. 31.
Almirola’s bacon-themed Ford Fusion will hit the track for the first time Saturday morning for the weekend’s only practice session. While Talladega is a wild-card race in the playoffs given its high-speed, pack-style racing, earning maximum stage points during the race will be key for the 34-year-old Almirola in order to advance to the Round of 8 in the playoffs. The final race in the current playoff round takes place next weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
In Almirola’s last four starts at the 2.66-mile Talladega oval, he’s earned two top-five finishes and four top-10s. In his 17 Cup Series starts there, an accident has ended Almirola’s day prematurely only once. In the typically accident-mired event, he’s led a total of 15 laps and has an average finish of 17.2. Almirola’s one career Cup Series victory was captured in 2014 at Talladega’s sister track, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
The Tampa native has already found his way to victory lane in his career at the Alabama track. In 2017, Almirola led 13 laps in the Xfinity Series event before going on to capture the victory there while piloting the No. 98 Ford for Biagi-DenBeste Racing.
Almirola heads into Sunday’s race ninth in the standings with 3,033 points, 10 points outside the Round of 8 cutoff. This is the furthest Almirola has ever advanced in the playoffs during his seven-year Cup Series career. All four SHR entries are competing in the Round of 12 this season, making up 33.3 percent of the remaining playoff field.
With the season winding down, fans can still 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.
Talladega is the 28th 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 had shown strength at restrictor-plate tracks with 17 wins in the last 31 events at Daytona and Talladega. In the Cup Series, Ford has captured nine wins in the last 12 events at Talladega.
Through the first 30 races this season, Almirola has an average start of 17.2 and an average finish of 13.9 with two top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. He’s also led 180 laps this season, already a career best with six races remaining.
ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Ford has been really strong at restrictor-plate tracks and Stewart-Haas Racing has been really strong this season. How do you view this weekend’s race at Talladega?
“The Fords typically run well at Talladega and up front. I think Stewart-Haas Racing has been right on the heels of Team Penske and their success at Talladega. So as much as Talladega is a wild card, I think it kind of plays into our favor given that our cars are so fast.”
You had a strong weekend at Dover but didn’t get the win. How do you view Talladega now?
“It would’ve been nice to seal the deal at Dover last weekend and not have to worry about Talladega, but that didn’t work out, so now we have to go race. I think for us being in the position we’re in, we can’t just ride around and be cautious and let those guys score stage points without us scoring stage points. Hopefully, we’ll have some luck on our side and we’ll stay out of the big one and score stage points, and really be on offense.”
With the speed you have shown at restrictor-plate tracks and 1.5-mile tracks, does that ease the nerves or the weight on your shoulders a little bit?
“No, not really. It’s that part of the year and we’re all racing for a championship and it’s really high stakes. Everybody is on edge, everyone wants to be aggressive and score all the points they can. We saw at the end of Charlotte that every point and position matters. Talladega is going to be no different. I have had some great races at Talladega and won an Xfinity race there, run top-five quite a few times in the Cup Series. It has been a good place for me, but it’s still the unknown. You can get caught up in a wreck that had nothing to do with you, or you could be the cause of the wreck. Things just happen when you’re running 200 miles per hour and an inch apart from each other for three hours. One mistake and it usually collects a lot of people. You just have to hope you’re in the right place at the right time. If we are, it could be a good day for us.”