Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Anytime Favorites Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), returns to his home track, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, this weekend.
In the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500, Almirola showed strength by running at the front of the field on occasion, but his day ended when he was caught in a multicar accident on lap 190 – the inevitable “big one.”
The Tampa, Florida native has found his way to victory lane at Daytona, scoring his first career Cup Series win in the rain-shortened July 2014 race, when he led 14 laps. He tasted restrictor plate-racing success again four years later, during his first season with SHR, when he was victorious at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. It put him in the 2018 Cup Series playoffs, where he advance to the semifinal round, and proved the No. 10 driver has potential to bring home another superspeedway win any time he races on one.
Almirola will make his 16th 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, and he captured an Xfinity Series win there while piloting the No. 98 Biagi-Den Beste Ford Mustang in July 2016. Almirola has three Daytona starts in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series with a best finish of 12th.
In Cup Series competition this season, Almirola has earned nine top-10s, one top-five, one pole, and has led 100 laps in 17 races. He is currently on pace for his best season to date. At this point last year, he had only seven top-10s, no top-fives, no poles, and had led 71 laps.
For the second time this season, a slightly new aerodynamic setup for the superspeedway races first implemented at Talladega in April will be in effect at Daytona this weekend.
“I don’t know if we learned anything from the Talladega race that will apply to Daytona,” Almirola said. “Daytona and Talladega are really two different animals. At Talladega, handling is rarely an issue and it’s more about trimming your car out to go fast. Daytona certainly becomes a handling racetrack, especially in the heat of summer in July. You’ve got to be able to run wide open at Daytona while having great balance to make aggressive moves in the draft.”
The Mustang driver enters the Fourth of July weekend the same way he did last year, partnered for the eighth year with Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, which is based approximately five hours northeast of SHR headquarters in Smithfield, Virginia. 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.
Almirola’s Ford Mustang this weekend will sport a fresh new look for the first time this season with Smithfield Anytime Favorites livery adorning the No. 10 car. The legendary artisan taste of Smithfield now comes in more than 20 delicious cuts and flavors – including sliced, cubes and steaks. That means perfect portions every time. Scrambled eggs can be enhanced with flavorful cubes, and diced ham makes for an ideal party appetizer, and enjoyable slices make for a traditional dinner.
Also, fans can now get VIP, behind-the-scenes access in following “Aric ‘Beyond the 10’” by subscribing to his YouTube channel and following episodes on Facebook and Instagram TV. 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.
Almirola currently sits 11th in the championship standings, 195 points out of first and five positions ahead of the cutoff for the playoffs.
ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Anytime Favorites Ford Mustang 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 superspeedway 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 there 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.”