Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has had a career-best season as he heads to the NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway this weekend.
His six top-five finishes this year surpass his previous best of four in a season in 2018. In addition, his 298 laps led is a career high for a season, and his 18 top-10 finishes surpasses his season best.
Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield team recorded five consecutive top-fives start with his fifth-place run at Homestead-Miami Speedway, then continued with a third-place finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, third and fifth the doubleheader at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, and third at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He went on to earn four more consecutive top-10 finishes to bring his career-best top-10 streak to nine in a row.
Almirola’s third-place finish June 22 at Talladega marked his eighth straight top-10 there and tied the track record for most consecutive top-10s – a mark set by Dale Earnhardt Jr., from April 2001 to October 2004.
The native of Tampa, Florida also qualified for the Cup Series playoffs for the third time in three years since joining SHR. It was his fourth playoff appearance, and he advanced to the Round of 12 for the second time.
“What a crazy year, but a good year,” Almirola said. “Luckily, NASCAR was able to get us back on track after the pandemic hit and we adapted better than some teams for a while. We started this year with no expectations with our new crew chief Mike Bugarewicz and a new crew. We accomplished our regular-season goals outside of a win and just came up short in the playoffs after leading at Talladega. No one knew what to expect this year and I’ll say our performance on the track was great when we adapted together.”
Almirola has earned six top-10s, two top-fives and has led 26 laps in 19 career starts at Phoenix. He has finished outside of the top-10 just once since joining SHR.
“We have one more shot at a win or a decent finish this weekend at Phoenix,” Almirola said. “We’ve been good there in the past. Kevin (Harvick) is really good there, too. I know there are four cars out there battling for a championship, but if we’ve got the speed, we’re going to give it all we’ve got to put Smithfield and this team in victory lane.”
Smithfield Foods, Inc., which sponsored Almirola’s No. 10 Mustang for a majority of the races this season and will again in 2021, 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 wrapping up 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. He plans to continue providing exclusive content in 2021. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.
Almirola is currently 15th in the driver standings with 2,211 points.
ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What do you think about the 2021 schedule?
“I think it’s great. NASCAR has done a great job at making the schedule exciting for the fans. Look how the playoffs turned out. There was always something on the line and I think you’re going to see a really diverse group of winners next year. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Who do we have to thank for a successful season amid this COVID-19 pandemic?
“So many people. The frontline heroes who put their lives at risk to make sure our country could keep going, the team for working insanely hard all year to bring competitive cars, their families for staying strong while they’re gone, NASCAR for making the right calls and keeping everyone safe, the thousands of Smithfield employees who have helped keep food on our tables all year, and so many more. We couldn’t do it without them.”
What makes Phoenix so unique?
“Phoenix is just a fast short track. Ever since the repave, it races like a mile-and-a-half, which is different from a Richmond-, Martinsville- or Bristol-type of short track. It’s a fun race and I always look forward to heading out West to Phoenix.”
What’s the most important thing to be successful at Phoenix?
“You have to have everything at Phoenix. You have to have downforce, grip in your car and good brakes. You have to make sure your car turns well through the center of turns one and two, which is a sharp, banked corner. And then you have turns three and four, which are really fast and sweeping and flat. You’ve got to have a car that’s versatile and is a good compromise for both corners.”