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 Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, 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.”