ARIC ALMIROLA – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will head just a few miles down the road from the race shop for the second consecutive weekend for Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Last weekend’s Monster Energy All-Star Race was a non-points event that paid $1 million to the winner, but it’s back to racing for points with this weekend’s 600-mile marathon.

Once again joining the Memorial Day weekend tradition of honoring America’s fallen service members as part of the NASCAR Salutes initiative, the windshield header of each Cup Series car that usually display the drivers name will instead feature the name of a fallen service member. Almirola’s name on the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion will be replaced with United States Army SSG Aaron Butler. Butler, a native of Monticello, Utah, born on Aug. 24, 1989, was part of the First Battalion 19th Special Forces unit. He graduated from the Army Green Berets Special Forces Qualification course in January 2016 and perished on Aug. 16, 2017. In addition to defending his country, Butler served as a missionary for the Church of Latter Day Saints, earned his Eagle Scout rank and was a four-time Utah high school state wrestling champion. Butler’s brother, fiancé and other close family members will be attendance this weekend at Charlotte.

Butler was selected to be on Almirola’s car because of his connection to the No. 10 team car chief, Chad Haney. “My connection to Aaron Butler was through a good friend of mine, Charlie Tilton,” Haney said. “Charlie was an instructor at an Army Green Beret training course in North Carolina called Robin Sage. I went on a training exercise one night and they dressed me up as a bad guy, and Aaron and a bunch of other guys found me. I was told last summer that Aaron was the one who got me in the exercise. It was an experience that I will never forget. When I heard about his death I went to work trying to figure out a way to honor him. I’ve since spoken with Aaron’s mother and brother on the phone and they are very appreciative of his name being on our car.”

This weekend also marks the first time Smithfield has adorned Almirola’s Ford Fusion for the May race at Charlotte even though the Tampa native has participated in the 600-mile race five times in his career. In his first Cup Series start at the Memorial Day weekend event in 2012, Almirola earned his only Cup Series pole award with a speed of 192.94 mph. In the same event, Almirola also led four laps. The 34-year-old has a best result of 10th at the 1.5-mile oval located just a few minutes from SHR’s Kannapolis, North Carolina headquarters.

At 1.5-mile venues this season, Almirola hasn’t finished outside the top-13 with the exception of the April race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where the No. 10 Ford Fusion was involved in an accident. Almirola finished inside the top-10 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.

Last weekend at Charlotte, Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion had a different look for the Saturday night exhibition event. Waffle House appeared on the car to help kick off its first-ever “Who’s Your All-Star?” sweepstakes in conjunction with Smithfield Foods. Fans can enter the sweepstakes by snapping a photo with their favorite Waffle House associate and sharing via Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #WhosYourAllStar. The top-10 associates and the customers who nominated them will receive special recognition and a Waffle House gift card. One grand prize customer and associate winner will each receive a VIP experience to the NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

In addition to the Waffle House sweepstakes, fans can 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, or by texting SMOKE to 82257.

Fans also continue to have the opportunity to celebrate the summer 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 month. Fans are encouraged to nominate their favorite grill hero by visiting 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.

The Coca-Cola 600 marks the 12th 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’s seven wins this season is the best start the manufacturer has had to a season in 20 years. Almirola’s SHR teammates have earned a majority of the victories for the blue oval – Kevin Harvick with five and Clint Bowyer with one. If a Ford Fusion visits victory lane this weekend, it will mark the manufacturer’s first win in the Coke 600 since Mark Martin in 2002.


ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:


With the Coke 600, you’ll have a fallen service member’s name on your windshield. What does that mean to you?

“It’s huge for me. I greatly appreciate and understand the sacrifices that the men and women of the military make. My dad was in the Air Force and I grew up on an Air Force base in the panhandle of Florida. It means a lot to me personally to represent the men and women who go out and fight for our freedom. It’s easy to take for granted that we wake up in the morning and go walk out of the doors of our houses and go about our day, but there are men and women all over the world fighting for us to make it a possibility. I’m grateful for that and for the people who have made the ultimate sacrifice and have given their life to make sure we have freedom. It’s a great way for us to pay tribute to them and their families by having their names on the racecar.”

Based on your results so far this season, you and your team have been very consistent. How does it feel to have consistency this year? 

“I feel like we have been consistent. We’ve been a top-15, top-10 car every weekend. We had one setback at Texas, running in the top-10 before we were involved in a crash. Besides that, I’d say we’ve been a solid contender. That’s fun, that’s not been the norm for me in my Cup Series career. So, obviously, making the jump to Stewart-Haas Racing and having incredible racecars has made it a lot of fun for me and, to have great partners who put in all of the time, energy and resources that they do and doing their part to make us go faster on the racetrack, is a lot of fun to be a part of.”

KURT BUSCH – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

Kurt Busch has competed in 17 Coca-Cola 600s at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. He finished an impressive sixth in the 2014 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. All that’s left is the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco and he will have the Memorial Day weekend trifecta.

The latter iconic race might be rather difficult, but Busch may take in the Monaco circuit in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup when he retires. If it sounds strange, did anyone see Busch’s performance in the 2014 Indianapolis 500? Anything is possible.
While Busch will be watching Monaco and Indianapolis, his focus Sunday will be the longest race of 2018 season – a 600-mile, 400-lap affair that has been contested since 1960.

Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has had some success at Charlotte as he started second and led 252 of 400 laps there en route to his 22nd NASCAR Cup Series victory on May 30, 2010.

He held off a hard-charging Jamie McMurray to score his only points-paying victory at the 1.5-mile oval. He won the non-points-paying NASCAR All-Star Race the week before, becoming just the seventh driver to win both events in the same year.
Along with the victory, Busch has seven points-paying top-five finishes and 12 top-10s at Charlotte.

Busch finished 18th in last weekend’s Monster Energy All-Star Race, but a Coca-Cola 600 win after finishing 18th in the All-Star Race has happened before. Casey Mears finished 18th in the 2007 All-Star Race, then came back one week later to score a win in the Coca-Cola 600.

A triumph Sunday would put Busch in elite company with drivers Richard Petty, Fred Lorenzen, Neil Bonnett, Jim Paschal, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick as a two-time Coca-Cola 600 winner. And it would give Ford its first Coca-Cola 600 win since 2002.


KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:


Talk about the Coca-Cola 600.

“It’s a big, marquee event. There’s The Masters, the Grand Slams in tennis – there are those big marquee events and this is one of them for us here in NASCAR. Memorial Day weekend is a time to reflect on our military and to give thanks and honor those who have served. It’s also a huge weekend of motorsports and the platform of motorsports shines because of Monaco, Indy and Charlotte. And when you have a chance to be the last guy standing at the end of that weekend with a trophy in your hands, it’s big. It’s a huge event to win.”

What do you remember about competing in the 2014 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race?

“The action, the atmosphere and the people of Indiana love their racetrack. The Kentucky Derby is a few weeks before and that’s a chance for the horse racing people to be recognized. And that’s what I saw at Indianapolis. The people of Indiana have their track on a global world stage for the day. And everyone is proud of their track. The electricity, the atmosphere, the pageantry and then after all that, to take the green flag and go into turn one three wide, I’d never done that before in my life. And it’s like you snap into race mode. We’ve got 500 miles to do. And it was an incredible day that I will never forget.”

You’ve done Charlotte and Indy. Is Monaco next?

“There is that chance, but the clock is ticking on me (laughs). I look at Formula One as something I’ll never be able to do, but there are some support series – the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup is one. It’d be great to get on track at Monaco but, if I can’t, it’d be great to get on a boat in Monaco or on top of an apartment building in Monaco to experience the race.”

Talk about the 2010 Coca-Cola 600, when you had such a dominant car.

“Well, to start, we just missed out on the pole. That’s one thing that sticks in my mind. You know how racers are – we want to win them all. That race, we were so good in the daytime that I was afraid of what was going to happen when the sun went down and the track started to change and how the race would play out. I mean, you never really have a good car at the beginning and have it stay underneath you for the nighttime. It’s just the way you’ve always seen that race play out. But that car was that good. It was what we saw with it in the All-Star Race the week before. It was fast during both of those weekends. So it’s amazing how you can stumble across little things that make all of the difference in the world. Again, I was leading the beginning of the race just pacing myself. The car was so good in the daytime and I literally thought we would end up a lap down at night because cars never stay the same as the race goes on. But it worked out and we got the win in the 600.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

Event: Alsco (Round 11 of 33)
Date: May 26, 2018
Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway
Layout: 1.5-mile oval
Television: 1 p.m. EDT on FS1

Chase Briscoe Notes of Interest


• Chase Briscoe will start his third race in the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste (SHR) Ford Performance Mustang Saturday afternoon at Charlotte (N.C) Motor Speedway.
• As a member of the Ford Performance Driver Development Program, Briscoe also will race the SHR Mustang Sept. 29 on Charlotte’s “roval,” and Oct. 20 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Briscoe has an additional 12 Xfinity Series races with Roush Fenway Racing in 2018, as well as several sportscar races.
• Briscoe will be joined in the Charlotte field by SHR teammate Cole Custer in the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang.
• The No. 98 Ford makes its sixth appearance of 2018 at Charlotte. Aric Almirola finished 35th Feb. 17 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Kevin Harvick won Feb. 24 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and finished 19th April 7 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Briscoe finished 23rd at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in his SHR debut April 13 and 16th at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway April 28.
• Briscoe has made five starts in Xfinity Series competition this season. He finished 15th at Atlanta and 11th at Texas, 22nd at Bristol, 26th at Richmond (Va.) Raceway and 16th at Talladega.
• In 2017 Truck Series competition, Briscoe earned four poles and won the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Briscoe’s 10 top-five finishes and 14 top-10s enabled him to make the Truck Series playoffs, where he finished sixth in points and scored the series’ rookie of the year and most popular driver awards.
• Briscoe won six races en route to the 2016 ARCA Series championship.
• Briscoe finished 22nd in his lone start in Truck Series competition at Talladega Oct. 14, 2017. He finished third in his lone ARCA start at Talladega April 29, 2016.
• The 23-year-old Mitchell, Indiana native is a third-generation driver. His grandfather Richard Briscoe is a legendary Sprint car team owner, and his father Kevin Briscoe raced Sprint cars for more than 20 years and won more than 150 feature events.
• Briscoe’s first time behind the wheel of a racecar came in 2001 in a Quarter Midget. In 37 starts driving 410 Sprint cars, Briscoe racked up eight top-fives and 17 top-10s, including a win in the last race of the season, where he broke Jeff Gordon’s record as being the youngest driver (13) to win a 410 Sprint car race.
• Briscoe started second and finished 11th in his lone start in the Truck Series at Charlotte on May 19, 2017.

Chase Briscoe Quotes:


What are your thoughts on Charlotte?

“I can’t wait to get to Charlotte. I really don’t feel like we’ve shown what we are capable of doing, yet. We were wrecked in the opening laps at Bristol, and then Talladega is just an animal all its own. Charlotte is more of a test of where we really are. It should be fun. I really like running on the 1.5-mile tracks. The No. 98 Ford is fast and the pit stops will be good.”

COLE CUSTER – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

Event:               Alsco 300 (Round 11 of 33)
Date:                 May 26, 2018
Location:          Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway
Layout:             1.5-mile oval

Cole Custer Notes of Interest


  • The Alsco 300 Marks Custer’s fourth NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
  • In three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Charlotte, Custer has earned three top-10s and one top-five. His average Xfinity Series finish at Charlotte is 5.6.
  • Custer is competing for his fourth consecutive top-10 at Charlotte and eighth of the season.
  • He has one win, two poles, nine top-five finishes, 28 top-10s and has led 350 laps in 48 career Xfinity Series starts.
  • Custer’s best finish in the eight Xfinity Series races run this season is his fourth-place result at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
  • Custer is fifth in the Xfinity Series driver standings with 299 points, 57 behind leader Elliot Sadler.
  • Custer has earned two pole awards, seven top-10s, one top-five and has led 48 laps thus far in 2018. 
  • In 17 Xfinity Series starts and nine NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at 1.5-mile ovals, Custer has one win, six top-five finishes and 15 top-10s.
  • In 2017, Custer led the Xfinity Series with 422 points at mile-and-a-half tracks.

Cole Custer, Driver Q&A


You have finished fourth, sixth and seventh at Charlotte in the Xfinity Series. What is it going to take to pull off a win?

“In my opinion, Charlotte is one of the toughest mile-and-half tracks we go to, so you take a little pride in running well there. To win, I think you’ll have to be smart adjusting your car to the conditions throughout the weekend and the race. ”

 What are your thoughts on racing at Charlotte?

“Coming back to Charlotte is pretty important because you have all of the shop members around and all of their family and friends. It’s an important race for everybody and everyone wants to step up their game to win here. I wouldn’t say Charlotte is my favorite track to race at, but it’s a track where I’ve had some really good runs. There’s no reason why we can’t do that again.”

 What is a lap around Charlotte Motor Speedway like?

 “It’s a really edgy racetrack. Age-wise, it’s in the middle of a grippy track and a really worn-out track. It has a lot of tiny, high-speed bumps throughout the track that will upset the car. It’s a really challenging place to get around. Honestly, it’s one of the most difficult tracks I’ve been to. You have to hit your marks just right, but it’s a fun track.”

How have you adapted to the new composite bodies so far this year?

“The composite bodies haven’t been too big of a change for the drivers this year, so it wasn’t that hard to adapt. For the guys in the shop, they worked extremely hard switching all the cars over and figuring the bodies out, so I have to thank them.”


Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A


What are your thoughts on racing at Charlotte?

“I’ve attended every race at Charlotte for as long as I can remember. For that reason alone, it makes the track special to me. The fact that I can sleep in my own bed over the race weekend is just a bonus. We’ve been good here in the past, so we’re looking for another strong run to get us back on pace.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1/Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is going into the Coca-Cola 600 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this weekend looking for a performance to celebrate. Luckily, the No. 4 Ford Fusion is riding with Mobil 1 and Busch Beer, one partner with a proven track record of performance and another that knows how to celebrate success, as Harvick attempts to tackle the longest, most grueling race on the Cup Series schedule.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s (SHR) technology partnership with Mobil 1 is a unique combination of experience, expertise and innovative thinking that strives to consistently deliver performance-enhancing results on the track. The partnership allows the SHR teams to head into the series’ only 600-mile event with a level of confidence that its cars will be there to compete at the end.

Mobil 1 continues to perform rigorous testing with the SHR teams in the garage with its products and support to improve on-track performance, including the reduction of frictional loss in the engines to maximize fuel mileage, increase horsepower and turn more rpm. Mobil 1 works to reduce engine temperatures to increase engine efficiency. The products allow the No. 4 racecar to reduce rolling resistance, which contributes to increased acceleration on restarts on the way to reaching top speed.

The Mobil 1 products reduce friction in the suspension components, as well, providing maximum tire grip and helping to reduce steering compliance to give precision control and improved handling for Harvick behind the wheel.

Harvick and the No. 4 team hope the benefits provided by Mobil 1 products and technology will help carry them to victory lane in the Sunday’s traditional Memorial Day-weekend event, during which their racecar will honor a fallen soldier on the windshield header as part of NASCAR’s “600 Miles of Remembrance” initiative.

The name of Lance Cpl. Patrick Ryan Adle of the United States Marine Corps will be featured on the No. 4 Mobil 1/Busch Beer Ford Fusion this weekend.

Adle, of Bel Air, Maryland, became an Engineer Equipment Operator (MOS: 1345) while in the Marine Corps.  On his 2nd Tour in Iraq, while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, Adle was assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Force Service Support Group, Folsom, Pennsylvania, when he was killed by an improvised explosive device on June 29, 2004, while conducting combat operations near Baghdad, Iraq.

He was a 2001 graduate of Fallston (Maryland) High School, where he played varsity football and lacrosse and earned varsity letters in both sports all four years. He helped the Fallston Cougars to a lacrosse state title in 2001 playing defense, and was remembered for his aggressive play and leadership.

Adle joined the Marine Corps following his 18th birthday because he wanted to protect his family and country.

Having Adle’s name on the car brings added pressure to perform for Harvick, but pressure and performance are nothing new to the 2014 Cup Series champion.

Harvick has raced up front and has scored a Cup Series-best five wins, six stage wins and has led 820 laps this year. But he will be chasing another significant mark when the green flag drops Sunday afternoon as he attempts to become the first driver to score three consecutive points-paying wins twice in a season since Dale Earnhardt accomplished the feat in 1987.

He has two Coca-Cola 600 wins in his career and would like to celebrate his third in one of NASCAR’s top races Sunday afternoon with a cold, crisp and refreshing Busch Beer in victory lane.


KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1/Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:


The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule. How do you manage that extra 100 miles on the engine?

“It definitely throws a kink into things because you wind up with fewer practice laps. This comes from the engine department, because this year you have to run your engines twice and you have to take care of them as much as you can. There’s also been a much bigger interest in where you shift and the temperatures during practice. So from that standpoint, that’s where you see the extra 100 miles in the race that makes a difference. It’s always an interesting weekend to be able to practice enough to still run the same tolerances with engines being pushed for 600 miles instead of 500, and you get there by taking that time out of practice.”


Is the Coca-Cola 600 more physically or mentally challenging?

“It just depends on how hot it is, honestly. If it’s a good weekend and the weather is nice, then it’s more mentally challenging than physically challenging. Either way, it’s still challenging both mentally and physically in some way, shape or form. The hardest part mentally is just getting yourself to overcome those last hundred miles because you are used to the 400- or 500-mile races.”


You have an added advantage with Mobil 1 as a sponsor. It’s more than a sponsor, with its technology directly benefiting how you perform on the racetrack. How advantageous has this relationship with Mobil 1 been since you joined SHR in 2014?

“It was really mind-blowing when I first came to Stewart-Haas Racing. Every time we went to qualify, we really didn’t do anything different from the driver’s seat, but we’d always pick up a tenth-and-a-half or two-tenths of a second, and it literally came down to the oils in the engine, the oil in the transmission, the oil in the rear gear and the things they did from a lubricant standpoint – those were the biggest changes we made to the car before we would go and qualify. So, when you see that level of technology and commitment to the things that go in your car, every piece of it adds up to a pretty big chunk of speed. It’s pretty remarkable.”


You’ve had quite a start to the season with five wins in 12 races. What has led to this kind of performance?

“I would just point at the experience of the race team because of the fact this is our fifth year together. We’ve been through a lot of very high-pressure situations, low-pressure situations, good moments, bad moments. And everybody just gets along so well on our race team and, when you look at that as a group, it’s something that’s pretty special. I think the second thing is the fact that Ford has brought a lot to the table for our race team. It’s allowed us to expand our engineering staff over the first winter and really just brought resources to our team. So, when you add all those pieces to the puzzle up and look at the experience of the race team and you look at the partnerships we have with Ford and Mobil 1 and all the support we have from our ownership group to let us go out and explore and do the things and take the chance of switching to a different manufacturer and take the chance of bringing things into our own house and controlling more of our own parts and pieces, those things all added up.”


What does it mean to honor and remember a military member on your No. 4 Mobil 1/Busch Beer Ford Fusion this Memorial Day weekend?

“There isn’t any sport that honors the military any better than NASCAR. I know a lot of sports do a lot of things for our military but, when you roll into this particular weekend with the Coke 600 and you are a part of the celebration and remembrance for all the things that have happened with our military, to see the support that NASCAR and everybody in our garage gives the military, especially on this particular weekend, is something that gives you goosebumps. We are honored to carry the names on our cars.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

As the final notes of the national anthem faded over Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway’s public address system last May, amid the cheers of the crowd ready to watch NASCAR racing, Stewart-Haas Racing’s (SHR) Clint Bowyer paused before climbing into his racecar to run 600 miles in one of the biggest events of the year.

The driver noticed tears in the eyes of Terry Wagoner’s family standing in front of his car.

Bowyer had met the Wagoner family of Pelzer, South Carolina, earlier in the day as part of NASCAR Salutes – the industry’s collective expression of respect and gratitude for members of the U.S. Armed Forces, past and present. Bowyer would carry the 28-year-old Wagoner’s name on his windshield header during the race. Wagoner and two others died in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2007 from wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations. Wagoner was in his second Iraq tour when he was killed. He followed in the footsteps of five uncles who also served in the military.

It had been smiles and laughs at the meet-and-greet that morning when the Wagoner family visited Bowyer at his motorhome, but the solemn prerace ceremony that included a moment of silence and national anthem brought out their tears. Amid the tension and chaos of prerace activity, Bowyer walked over to the family to give each a hug and whispered some words into their ears.

Nobody outside the family knows what was said but, if there is a family that identifies with the sacrifice a soldier and his family make for their country, then it’s the Bowyer family of Emporia, Kansas.

Clint’s paternal grandfather Dale E. Bowyer was a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army. He won the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism while fighting the armed enemy in Germany during World War II.

The Distinguished Service Cross is the second-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army. It is awarded for extraordinary heroism.

While leading his platoon under heavy fire in an attack near Sinz, Germany, on Jan. 25, 1945, Lt. Bowyer was severely wounded by an enemy mine. He refused evacuation even though both feet were shattered. He shouted instructions and encouragement where he lay. Inspired by his bravery, the men re-formed, moved clear of the mine field and continued the advance. Only then did Lt. Bowyer allow himself to be evacuated, crawling clear of the mine field to avoid injury to people.

“His devotion to duty and to his men, and his courage and fearless determination, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service,” read the commendation he received.

Lt. Bowyer eventually lost a leg due to his injuries. After his career in the Army, he lived in Iola, Kansas, and worked in the dairy business. He passed away in June 1974. Bowyer never met his grandfather.

This Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600, his grandson Clint Bowyer will carry the name of New Hampshire National Guardsman Spc. Alan J. Burgess of Landaff, New Hampshire, who died in Iraq after a car bomb went off near his patrol in 2004. The 24-year-old father of one was on patrol as a vehicle gunner in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul when he was struck by shrapnel. Burgess was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Forward, headquartered in Berlin, New Hampshire.

Whether he wins or finishes last Sunday night in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600, Bowyer won’t forget the sacrifices his grandfather and family made to keep America free or the ultimate sacrifices of the Wagoner and Burgess families and thousands of others across the country and throughout history.

That’s the meaning of Memorial Day.


CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation VF-1 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing:


What are your thoughts on the service of your grandfather and others in the military?

“I never got to meet him but I’ve seen a lot of letters from the President, medals and all these awards that he got. I have the highest respect for him and every soldier who has served this country. I love getting to meet them when they come to the track and I like getting to meet their families and just tell them thank you. We owe so much to everyone who’s served and we will always remember the ones who have given their lives. I love that we’ll honor them this weekend at Charlotte.” 

Do you notice the extra 100 miles in the Coca-Cola 600?

“It just depends on how your ole’ hot rod is, how your night’s going. The Coca-Cola 600 can be one of those deals where you feel like you could’ve gone another three or four hours, or it’s one of those where it’s like, ‘My God, is this thing ever going to end?’ You hope it’s the way I was describing before. You hope it’s, ‘This is easy,’ and wish it’d lasted a couple more hours.”

Is there a difference between your mental approach now that you have a victory in 2018?

“The confidence level is through the roof right now for our race team and myself. We’re capable of doing it. We’ve proven that, we’ve got that behind us. It’s no longer, ‘Can they do it,’ it’s, ‘When will they do it again,’ and I feel that way when you get in that racecar. It’s not, ‘Can we win again,’ it’s, ‘When are we gonna do it and how are we gonna do it?’” 

Are companies more interested in the No. 14 with the success you have enjoyed in 2018?

“There are a lot of good things going on with our sport and I feel like obviously we’re running good and, I can tell you this, I’m gone a hell of a lot more than I was a year ago and even two years ago, three years ago. Things are picking up in a big way and that’s because of partners and sponsors starting to really pick up around the program.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2018 All-Star Race Advance

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield/Waffle House Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will venture just a few miles down the road from the race shop for Saturday night’s Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. While this weekend is an exhibition race, the No. 10 team is riding the momentum from last weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City after qualifying fourth and taking the checkered flag ninth.

This weekend marks the sixth time Almirola will compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series non-points race. In 2015, he was locked into the main event after capturing his first Cup Series win the previous year, which automatically qualified him for the All-Star Race. This year, Almirola will need to qualify his way into the main event by either winning a stage in the All-Star Open that precedes it, or by earning the most fan votes. If Almirola succeeds in one of those two things, he will earn another opportunity to win the $1 million grand prize and compete in the All-Star Race against his three SHR teammates, who have already secured their spots by virtue of winning last year or so far this year.

Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion will have a different look for Saturday’s event that is a perfect fit for this weekend’s All-Star theme. Waffle House will appear on the car to help kick off its first-ever “Who’s Your All-Star?” sweepstakes in conjunction with Smithfield Foods. Fans can enter beginning Saturday by snapping a photo with their favorite Waffle House associate and sharing via Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #WhosYourAllStar. The top-10 associates and the customers who nominated them will receive special recognition and a Waffle House gift card. One grand prize customer and associate winner will each receive a VIP experience to the NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

Waffle House restaurants are headquartered in Norcross, Georgia, which is approximately four hours southwest from the Kannapolis, North Carolina headquarters of SHR. The company operates more than 1,850 restaurants in 25 states.

On the racetrack at Charlotte this weekend, most notable is the new rules package with which NASCAR’s competition department has challenged the teams and drivers. Horsepower-reducing restrictor plates will be used for the first time at the 1.5-mile venue, as well as changes to the aerodynamic package. The modifications have been implemented in hopes of tightening the field for the event and generate added excitement.

The 34-year-old Almirola has one top-five and four top-10 finishes in the Open. In his lone start in the main event in 2014, he finished 14th.

In addition to the Waffle House sweepstakes, fans can 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, or by texting SMOKE to 82257.

Fans also continue to have the opportunity to celebrate the summer 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 month. Fans are encouraged to nominate their favorite grill hero by visiting 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.

Charlotte All-Star weekend marks the 11th time 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.


ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield/Waffle House Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:


What has been the biggest challenge so far for 2018?

“The biggest challenge is just (crew chief) Johnny (Klausmeier) and I building a notebook together. On a personal level, we already have a relationship. On a crew chief and driver level, we are 12 weeks into building that relationship, and Johnny is a brand new crew chief and doesn’t have a ton of experience from that side as far building a notebook. And, as far as that gut feeling on how to prepare for practice and the race, especially with me as the driver, we’re brand new together. It’s just about building that confidence together and having the ability to say, ‘Hey, remember we did this last time at this track and it was bad, or remember last we did this and it really helped our car?’ All of those things take time and experience. At the same time, to not get too greedy and keep our heads down and focus on ourselves.”

At a glance, what do you think of the new rules package at Charlotte?

“I have no idea what to expect, absolutely zero. I’m going into it very open minded, ready to accept the challenge ahead and trying and make the most it. At the end of the day, there’s going to be a race and there’s going to be a winner and, whatever the rules package is, I hope we do a good job of  maximizing our efforts and come out on top. I think it will be interesting for sure, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes and what kind of race we put on.”

How does SHR stay collaborative and not break into separate teams?

“I think that’s what makes Stewart-Haas Racing so successful. You’ve got four competitive teams and obviously there are a lot of big personalities there and a lot of fun-loving spirit, but the commonality of Stewart-Haas Racing is that everybody who shows up to work, whether it’s Kevin Harvick or Tony Stewart or Gene Haas or the people sweeping the floors, everybody just loves racing. I’ve been at a lot of organizations, fortunately and unfortunately, in my career, so I’ve gotten to see some of the good, bad and the ugly of each organization. I’ve been a part of Joe Gibbs Racing. I’ve been affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports through Junior Motorsports, and the six weeks I spent working with Jimmie Johnson on the baby duty deal that I did there. I’ve been a part of DEI. I’ve been a part of RPM, and through RPM I’ve gotten to work with Roush, so I’ve seen a lot of the garage area, and the one thing that stands out to me the most at Stewart-Haas Racing is that, from top to bottom, the passion for just racing in general is unbelievable. The people who work at Stewart-Haas Racing wake up every morning excited to go to work for no other reason than to just figure out how to make racecars go faster, and everybody wants to just pull their weight and that’s something that’s rare in this industry, because this industry is a very dog-eat-dog world and that’s just not the case at SHR. Everybody is there to pull their own weight and to do the best they can at their job to try and help make their part of the racecar go faster, and that collective effort, I think, is what has Stewart-Haas Racing on top right now.”

Waffle House Restaurants, in Partnership with Smithfield®, Launch Sweepstakes to Honor Associates

Waffle House® restaurants and Smithfield® announce a way for customers to recognize their favorite, hard-working server or cook in the first ever “Who’s Your All-Star” Sweepstakes.

Customers simply need to snap a picture of their favorite Waffle House Associate, share via Twitter or Instagram and use the hashtag #WhosYourAllStar. Ten Associates will be selected to be on the first-ever Waffle House/Smithfield All-Star Team.

The sweepstakes kicks off May 19 in conjunction with the NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. There, Stewart-Haas Racing driver Aric Almirola will compete behind the wheel of his No. 10 Smithfield/Waffle House Ford Fusion featuring the #WhosYourAllStar theme.

“I love the hard-working Waffle House team,” says Almirola. “My All-Star is Chris, who I count on to deliver my breakfast to me hot and as fast as my pit crew when I’m at the Waffle House near my house.”

The top ten Associates and the customers who nominated them will receive special recognition and Waffle House gift cards. One grand prize customer and Associate will each receive a VIP weekend trip to the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“At Smithfield, we’re excited to partner with Waffle House to celebrate the Associates serving up great breakfast including our Smithfield bacon, ham and pork chops,” says Michael Collette, director of foodservice sales for Smithfield Foods. “We take pride into making high-quality products for customers to enjoy, and appreciate the passion that Waffle House Associates give every day.”

“This is a great platform for our customers to recognize the person who delivers a great experience to them every time they are in the restaurant,” says Shelby White, Waffle House Senior Marketing Manager. “My only question is “Who’s your All-Star?”


About Waffle House Restaurants

Headquartered in Norcross, GA, Waffle House® restaurants have been serving Good Food Fast® since 1955. Today the Waffle House system operates more than 1,850 restaurants in 25 states and is the world’s leading server of waffles, T-bone steaks, hashbrowns, cheese ‘n eggs, country ham, pork chops and grits.


About Smithfield

A leading provider of high-quality pork products, Smithfield was founded in 1936 in Smithfield, Virginia, establishing the town as the “Ham Capital of the World.” From hand-trimmed bacon and slow-smoked holiday hams to marinated tenderloins, Smithfield brings artistry, authenticity and a commitment to heritage, flavor, and handcrafted excellence to everything it produces. With a vast product portfolio including smoked meats, hams, bacon, sausage, ribs, and a wide variety of fresh pork cuts, the company services retail, foodservice, and deli channels across the United States and 30 countries abroad. All of Smithfield’s products meet the highest quality and safety standards in the industry. To learn more about how Flavor Hails from Smithfield, please visit,, and Smithfield is a brand of Smithfield Foods.


About Smithfield Foods

Smithfield Foods is a $15 billion global food company and the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. In the United States, the company is also the leader in numerous packaged meats categories with popular brands including Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Nathan’s Famous®, Farmland®, Armour®, Farmer John®, Kretschmar®, John Morrell®, Cook’s®, Gwaltney®, Carando®, Margherita®, Curly’s®, Healthy Ones®, Morliny®, Krakus® and Berlinki®. Smithfield Foods is committed to providing good food in a responsible way and maintains robust animal care, community involvement, employee safety, environmental and food safety and quality programs. For more information, visit


About Stewart-Haas Racing

Stewart-Haas Racing is the title-winning NASCAR team co-owned by three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation – the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America. The organization fields four entries in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – the No. 4 Ford Fusion for Kevin Harvick, the No. 10 Ford Fusion for Aric Almirola, the No. 14 Ford Fusion for Clint Bowyer and the No. 41 Ford Fusion for Kurt Busch. The team also competes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series by fielding a full-time entry – the No. 00 Ford Mustang for Cole Custer – and one part-time entry – the No. 98 Ford Mustang. Based in Kannapolis, North Carolina, Stewart-Haas Racing operates out of a 200,000-square-foot facility with approximately 380 employees. For more information, please visit us online at, on Facebook at, on Twitter @StewartHaasRcng and on Instagram @StewartHaasRacing.

KEVIN HARVICK 2018 All-Star Race Advance

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has – with all due respects to the band Smash Mouth – “got his game on” this year as he looks to further upgrade his all-star status Saturday night in the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

Harvick has dominated this season with five Cup Series victories, three of which have come on intermediate tracks similar to Charlotte  – Feb. 25 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, March 4 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and last Saturday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.

In addition to his impressive results this season, Harvick’s All-Star Race history is noteworthy, as well.

He’s making his 18th consecutive All-Star Race appearance, which will move him ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Labonte and into a tie with Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr., for the fifth-most consecutive appearances. Mark Martin has the most consecutive All-Star appearances at 24, and Jeff Gordon is second after making his 22nd straight appearance prior to his retirement at the conclusion of 2015. Rusty Wallace and Harvick’s team owner Tony Stewart are tied for third with 19.

The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion earned his first appearance in the All-Star Race during his 2001 rookie campaign, when he scored his first Cup Series win in only his third start at Atlanta that March, when he started fifth, led 18 laps and beat runner-up Gordon by .006 of a second for one of the closest finishes in series history. While it took Harvick just three races to qualify for his first All-Star Race, a brake issue in the non-points event in Charlotte forced him to retire after only 19 laps. He finished 21st.

Harvick won the 2007 All-Star Race when he started fourth, led 20 of 80 laps and beat runner-up Jimmie Johnson to the finish line by .141 of a second. The win made Harvick an automatic All-Star qualifier for the rest of his full-time career. However, he has also qualified for the All-Star Race by virtue of a win every season since 2010, as well as via his 2014 series title.

In addition to the 2007 win, Harvick has three runner-up finishes in the All-Star Race – two in the last four events and both under the SHR banner. He started third, led five laps and finished second to race-winner Jamie McMurray by .696 of a second in 2014. In 2015, he started 20th and finished second by .923 of a second to Denny Hamlin.

Harvick has three career points-paying victories at Charlotte winning the Coca-Cola 600 in both 2011 and 2013, and the Bank of America 500 in 2014.

While his Charlotte resume is rock solid in several respects, there will be some new modifications this weekend that the veteran driver and his fellow competitors will have to deal with in order to earn the $1 million prize Saturday night.

Each car will be required to use a horsepower-reducing restrictor plate – typically reserved for superspeedway races – as well as a splitter borrowed from the 2014 rules package, a 2018 radiator pan, a 6-inch-tall spoiler with two “ear” extensions measuring 12 inches tall, and manufacturer-specific air ducts designed to minimize the advantage of lead cars in undisturbed air.

There will also be a format change to the non-points feature race that is expected to add even more thrills to what it typically one of the wildest events of the year. The race is set to run in four stages – Stage 1 scheduled to end on lap 30, Stage 2 on lap 50, Stage 3 on Lap 70, and a final shootout that ends at the 80-lap race distance. Only green-flag laps will count during the final stage. NASCAR overtime rules will be in effect for the end of each stage. It’s designed to promote passing and tight competition, similar to the package the NASCAR Xfinity Series used at Indianapolis last year in a race that featured a record number of leaders and lead changes.

This year’s scheduled race distance is also 10 laps longer than the 2017 edition but will feature a pared-down procedural structure. Unlike previous formats, there will be no mandated pit stops, no choice of alternate tire compounds, no eliminations and no inversions of the running order.

That being said, Harvick is up for the challenge and ready to “go play” as he channels the “All Star” single in his pursuit of another All-Star Race victory this weekend.


KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:


What makes this group of guys so successful each week?

“We have a group of guys who want to be successful and push harder every week so they don’t have that letdown. They want to keep experiencing that success. For me, it’s fun right now because I feel like we playoff race every week. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense to a lot of people but, what that means is, normally when you go from the regular season to the playoffs, people get a little extra out of what they’re doing throughout the year – they find a little more speed, a little more downforce. We’re doing that every week. That’s something I always thought that Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus did very well throughout the years. They came with that same mentality that Rodney (Childers, crew chief) is pushing on his guys. We want to go win practice, win qualifying and then win the race. Those groups of people who buy into that are hard to find because that work capacity level is high and it takes a lot to be able to maintain that.”

How mentally fatiguing is it to have that all-in mentality all the time?

“You have to manage it because of the fact that you have to have a personal life and function at home. For me, that’s easy because, when you get home, it’s Keelan punching you in the stomach, Piper crying and wanting a bottle, or DeLana asking if I did something specific today. So immediately, that switch turns the other way toward family and what you have to do at home. You think about all those things all the time, but you’re able to focus on being at the racetrack or being around the team guys and focused on the cars, then you go home and it immediately switches gears. For me, when you have that circle of life and all those things balanced, you’re able to switch from A to B to C to D and be able to not worry about A because you know you’ve done everything you can do to get A organized, be financially responsible over here and, at your job, you know that you’ve put in the effort to have that relationship with your crew chief, pay attention to the details, go to the meetings and make those phone calls so that, when you’re doing B, you’re not worried about A, C and D. When you’re doing D, you’re not worried about A,B and C. That to me is part of having a balanced life.”

When you look at the makeup and culture at Stewart-Haas Racing, what sticks out to you?

“When you look at the culture at Stewart-Haas Racing, it’s really a result of the owners. When you look at Gene Haas, he is a guy who builds CNC machines and loves racing. Tony Stewart is a blue-collar guy who just loves to race. The common denominator there is that those guys both love to race. Part of what happens at SHR is they hire someone and say, ‘OK, we hired you to be the crew chief of the No. 4 car,’ and they let that person have an open mind and an opinion. They let me have an opinion and be involved in the things that happen at SHR and with the No. 4 team. You feel like you are a piece of the puzzle. When you feel like you’re a piece of the puzzle and you have an environment that’s a racer mentality that is very blue collar – then you add in a partner like Ford, who just wants to race and win. Ford puts so much effort into giving the race teams and buying in to what it takes to be a successful OEM from a NASCAR racing standpoint. I was at Mobil 1 this week and you just look at the research, development and things they bring to the race team – they are the same way. They want to create the best lubricants, greases and things that go into our engines, transmissions, rear-end gears, hubs. You look at everything that we have going on with partners like those two in Mobil 1 and Ford from a technology standpoint and those things are priceless. Everybody wants the same things and has the same mentality. It is very racer-oriented and blue collar.”

KURT BUSCH – 2018 All-Star Race Advance

There will be a lot of talk this week about the changes for the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

An event with as much tradition as the All-Star Race will see something new this year – restrictor plates. Used only at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway or Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, the plates will be coming to the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval Saturday night.

Restrictor plates were actually used somewhere other than a superspeedway – New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon – on Sept. 17, 2000, when Jeff Burton led all 300 laps en route to victory. One week later at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, a young Kurt Busch made his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut.

In addition to the restrictor plate at Charlotte Saturday night, racecars will also sport a 6-inch high spoiler with two 12-inch “ears,” a 2014-style splitter up front, and aero ducts.

There will also be a format change for Saturday night’s non-points feature event that is expected to make things thrilling for drivers and fans. But, for Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy Ford Fusion, it all means a lot more.

For starters, he is sponsored by Monster Energy and there would be no better reward that winning the Monster Energy All-Star Race. Secondly, the victor takes home a cool $1 million. Thirdly, Busch simply would just like the trophy.

Busch has won exhibition races before, including the All-Star Race at Charlotte, and two events at Daytona – the Can-Am Duels that set the starting field for the Daytona 500, and The Clash, which is the non-points race that kicks off the season there each year.

Both of Busch’s wins at Daytona came in 2011. His win in The Clash came after he swept past Ryan Newman off the final turn, thanks to drafting help from Jamie McMurray. In claiming the checkered flag, he became the 19th different winner of the event that began in 1979. Although it wasn’t a points-paying win, it was the first restrictor-plate victory of Busch’s career. Five days later, Busch again drove into victory lane, this time in the first Can-Am Duel. He started sixth and drafted with Regan Smith all afternoon en route to the win.

Busch would love nothing more than to score another All-Star victory. It would certainly lead to a “Monster” of a party in victory lane.


KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:


How important is the Monster Energy All-Star Race?

“A little added pressure with Monster being the title sponsor. I’ve been with them the last seven years doing different things with their brand and them doing different things with me and the racecar. We have a lot of fun together. It’s one of those marquee events that I need to perform in. I go there with as much motivation as possible. The team has built a completely different car for this event. And then there are rule changes. This time around, I hope we can get the group around NASCAR, the TV people, the drivers, everybody, to get the fans excited. Hopefully as excited as that hot summer night years ago because that’s how different this rules package is going to be. It’s going to be pretty wild to see how it all plays out. I know at Stewart-Haas we built different cars and we’re going into this weekend with so much more to learn.”

How are the restrictor plates going to be at Charlotte?

“It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to box us all in like we’re at a superspeedway, but we’re at a mile-and-a-half. So, are guys going to be shoving into a three-wide hole when they know they can’t get out of it? That’s going to be the question.”

What does it mean to you to be in the All-Star Race?

“It’s a who’s who of the Cup Series. It’s a big honor to be included in that race. Those are the winners, the top percent of our sport. To win that race in 2010 was a special moment. To beat the best of the best, and then to receive a check for $1 million, that’s a great feeling.”

 Talk about winning the event in 2010. What do you remember about that race? And what would it mean to you to win another one?

“The weekend was perfect. The car unloaded fast. We had an excellent pit stop during our run. We won the pole and it seemed like, in the race, we were the ones dictating what everyone else had to do because of the pace we set. That all starts with the trends that you’ve learned in the beginning of the season. That’s what is different about the All-Star Race and The Clash in Daytona. At Daytona, you’re coming off the offseason, there’s the buildup and excitement for another season and seeing what you’ve got. The All-Star Race is taking what you’ve learned in the first part of the year, applying that and trying to cash in on a big payday.”