DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Kentucky Race Report

Event: Kentucky 400 (Round 19 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Kentucky Speedway in Sparta (1.5-mile oval)
Format: 267 laps, broken into three stages (80 laps/80 laps/107 laps)
Start/Finish: 1st/8th (Running, completed 269 of 269 laps)
Point Standing: 18th with 469 points, 277 out of first
Note: Race extended two laps past its scheduled 267-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.

Race Winner: Kurt Busch of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 1 Winner: Kurt Busch of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):

● Daniel Suárez started Stage 1 from the pole position and ended it 14th.
● Suárez maintained the lead position for the first 49 laps, then came to pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments to help with the front end of his Mustang.
● After varying pit strategies the 27-year-old restarted 14th on lap 53.
● Suárez remained in the top-15 and stayed on the track throughout the next two caution periods.
● During the Stage 1 break Suárez pitted for fuel, two right-side tires and adjustments.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

● The No. 41 driver began Stage 2 in 10th and ended it in 29th.
● Early in the run, the Haas driver relayed to the crew that he thought he had a loose wheel. As he continued in the run, he maintained something felt wrong with a tire.
● On lap 106, Suárez came down pit road for four fresh tires in hopes of relieving the vibration he felt. After review, the team determined he had a tire going down. Unfortunately, Suárez sped on pit road and received a penalty that forced him to make a pass down pit road under the green flag.
● The penalty put the Ford driver two laps down in the 33rd position. After pit stops cycled through late in the stage, Suárez was back to only being one lap down.
● He ended the stage in the 29th position, one lap down, and pitted for fuel, four tires and adjustments during the stage break.

Final Recap (Laps 161-269):

● Suárez earned his seventh top-10 of the season and his first top-10 in three career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Kentucky.
● Suárez’s eighth-place result bettered his previous best finish at Kentucky – 15th in last year’s Kentucky 400.
● Suárez led twice for 52 laps, including the first 49 laps from the pole. These were his first laps led at Kentucky.
● Kurt Busch won the Kentucky 400 to score his 31st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his first at Kentucky. His margin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was .076 of a second.
● There were seven caution periods for a total of 35 laps.
● Only 16 of the 36 drivers in the Kentucky 400 finished on the lead lap.
● Joey Logano remains the championship leader after Kentucky with an 11-point advantage over second-place Kyle Busch.

Notes:

● Suárez earned his seventh top-10 of the season and his first top-10 in three career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Kentucky.
● Suárez’s eighth-place result bettered his previous best finish at Kentucky – 15th in last year’s Kentucky 400.
● Suárez led twice for 52 laps, including the first 49 laps from the pole. These were his first laps led at Kentucky.
● Kurt Busch won the Kentucky 400 to score his 31st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his first at Kentucky. His margin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was .076 of a second.
● There were seven caution periods for a total of 35 laps.
● Only 16 of the 36 drivers in the Kentucky 400 finished on the lead lap.
● Joey Logano remains the championship leader after Kentucky with an 11-point advantage over second-place Kyle Busch.

Daniel Suárez, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“It was an eventful night, for sure. We just had a fast racecar, but we got a bit tight. I feel like we made the car better, but we never got the track position back. We had a tire going down and then I was speeding coming to pit road because I was wheel hopping because of the tire. It was one problem after another. We were fast enough to overcome that but not enough to get a better finish. I feel like the good thing is that we have the speed. We just have to keep working to have a cleaner day and keep working to try to keep that speed the whole race.”

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 on Sunday, July 21 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

KEVIN HARVICK – 2019 Kentucky Race Advance

Kevin Harvick has won just about everywhere he’s raced.

He’s scored 106 total NASCAR victories (45 in the Cup Series, 47 in the Xfinity Series and 14 in the Truck Series) and only three other drivers in NASCAR history have passed 100 wins in its top three series: Richard Petty, David Pearson and Kyle Busch.

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship in 2014, as well as the 2001 and 2006 NASCAR Xfinity titles. He’s one of only four drivers to win the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Brickyard 400 and Southern 500.

However he has not won at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, nor at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, site of Saturday night’s Kentucky 400. But he’s come close at Kentucky, having finished in the top-10 in six consecutive races races there, including his first top-five when he came home fifth in 2018.

Harvick has scored two Xfinity Series wins at the 1.5 mile oval, the first coming in 2001 and followed up 13 years later in 2014.

While he’s looking for his first Cup Series win at Kentucky, so is sponsor, Hunt Brothers Pizza.

Hunt Brothers Pizza has sponsored Harvick in NASCAR for 10 years and, last year, he took the company to victory lane by winning the Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

He has also won two NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races with Hunt Brothers as a sponsor at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth in 2011 and at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway earlier that season.

Hunt Brothers Pizza is sponsoring Harvick in three NASCAR Cup Series races in 2019 and Kentucky is the second. The company also sponsored him in the non-points NASCAR All-Star Race in 2014 and 2015, which were conducted at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Harvick finished second in both races.

With more than 7,800 locations in 28 states, Hunt Brothers Pizza is the nation’s largest brand of made-to-order pizza in the convenience store industry. Hunt Brothers Pizza offers original and thin crust pizzas available as a grab-and-go Hunk, perfect for today’s on-the-go lifestyle, or as a customizable whole pizza that is an exceptional value with “All Toppings No Extra Charge.” Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, Hunt Brothers Pizza is family owned and operated with more than 25 years of experience serving great pizza to convenience store shoppers through its store partners.

Harvick, Hunt Brothers Pizza and the rest of the No. 4 team are hoping they can “cook up” a victory this week.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Racing Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

 

You’ve scored six straight top-10s at Kentucky but are still looking for that first win. What makes Kentucky so challenging?

“We’ve actually run really well there the last couple of years and led a lot of laps. I’m not sure it is any one thing that makes Kentucky challenging, to be honest, just for the fact that they’ve recently repaved it and it really is a unique track where it is hard to get everything just right.”

What challenges does the heat in Kentucky present this time of year?

“Kentucky is always a hot race and we’ve had some weather there over the last few years but, to be honest, it’s the same for everyone. It really just comes down to preparation for the driver and the team. As a driver, I have to take care of myself to make sure I’m ready. The team has to focus on the doing the best it can to make it as bearable in the car as possible. It also makes it tough on the handling of the car, especially on a new racing surface. It’s going to be very slick and hard to get the setup just right, but I’m confident in my team and the preparation they put into this race.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Kentucky Race Advance

Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) venture to the Bluegrass State for Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Kentucky 400 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. It’s the seventh 1.5-mile facility the Cup Series will have raced on this season.

The pressure is on after a wild race last weekend at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. That event, originally scheduled for Saturday night, was postponed until Sunday due to weather. After a multi-vehicle accident on lap 83, Suárez’s day ended prematurely with irreversible damage caused to his Haas Automation Mustang. The last-place result set Suárez back in his hunt for the championship.

The Mexico native has two Cup Series starts at Kentucky with a best finish of 15th. He’s earned a best starting spot of ninth there in NASCAR’s premier series, an average starting position of 10.0, an average finishing position of 16.5, and he’s completed 99.8 percent of all possible laps.

The 27-year-old has four NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the 1.5-mile oval. Suárez excelled at Kentucky in that series, in which he won the 2016 championship. He accumulated three Xfinity Series top-five finishes and three top-10s at Kentucky, which includes a runner-up result in September 2016. He also earned one pole award in September 2015 with a speed of 179.856 mph. The pole award was Suárez’s third during his first full-time Xfinity Series season. In the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series at Kentucky, Suárez has two starts and he earned a pole award in July 2016 and has led 77 laps.

In Suárez’s last 10 Cup Series starts at tracks 1.5-miles in length, he’s recorded one top-five, three top-10s and led 22 laps. The Ford driver has an average start of 16.3 and an average finish of 17.6 at intermediate tracks.

This weekend at Kentucky, Suárez will wear special skeleton printed gloves as part of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s “Driven to Give Gloves” initiative benefitting Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. After this weekend’s race, the gloves will be auctioned off vianascarfoundation.org/dalejr.

The Haas driver is currently 17th in the Cup Series standings, two spots behind teammate Clint Bowyer, to round out the four-driver SHR contingent. The top 16 drivers after the 26 regular-season races will earn a spot in the Cup Series playoffs. If Suárez captures a playoff position, it will be the first of his Cup Series career. Last year, all four SHR entries secured at least one regular-season win and a playoff spot.

SHR is looking for its first win in the organization’s history at Kentucky, the only venue on the Cup Series circuit where it remains winless since its inception in 2009. Ford has two all-time series wins at Kentucky.

 

DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

How did you get your start in racing?

“It’s a long story, but I started racing when I was 11, and it was kind of by mistake. I would work with my dad in his restoration shop and one of his customers had a son who was into racing. One weekend, they invited me to go with them to the go-kart track. And then they started inviting me more and eventually offered to let me drive the go-kart. I remember being so excited to get the chance to drive the go-kart and not just watch anymore. The guy thought I was really good, so he went and talked to my dad about it, and of course my dad wasn’t sure because it’s expensive. At the beginning, I was just racing for fun. I had no idea that you could actually race professionally and for a living. I remember my dad telling me when I was a little bit older that I didn’t have any responsibilities and should try doing it professionally. Eventually, that led to my move to the United States.”

You’re the only Hispanic in the Cup Series right now. How has your experience been with making new NASCAR fans?

“Things have changed so much in the last 10 to 15 years in NASCAR. I’ve been living here in the United States for almost eight years now and things have changed so much just while I’ve lived here. I have had so many experiences where Hispanic people, Mexicans here in the United States, Latinos, they come to me and tell me that they didn’t know anything about NASCAR but they saw me in an interview one day and now they’re a huge fan. That’s very cool to me. I’m very proud to be the guy who represents Hispanics and I try to do my best every single weekend. I’m glad I can give them someone to root for and bring their attention to NASCAR.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2019 Kentucky Race Advance

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Valley Tech Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will attempt to beat another personal record he set in 2018 when he earned his first top-10 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta after five starts at the 1.5-mile oval, site of Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Kentucky 400.

“Last year was an incredible year for Stewart-Haas as a team and a great year for me, personally,” Almirola said. “We brought a lot of speed to the track each weekend and contended for top-fives, top-10s and even wins all year, which was new for me. We started this season strong at intermediate tracks and we’re all just trying to get back to where we were. I’m looking forward to improving our 1.5-mile program this weekend at Kentucky.”

Almirola has scored three top-10 finishes and two top-15s at 1.5-mile tracks so far this season. In addition his eighth-place finish in last year’s Cup Series race at Kentucky, he earned a sixth-place finish there in the June 2011 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

For the second consecutive weekend, the Cup Series has a main event under the Saturday-night lights, which are not only overwhelming fan favorites who enjoy seeing racecars leave a trail of sparks as they navigate the track, but a challenge for teams in dealing with constant handling changes on the racecars as temperatures cool as the night wears on. In Sunday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Almirola drove the No. 10 Ford to a seventh-place finish after severe weather ended the race prematurely on lap 127 of a scheduled 160 laps. His seventh-place finish advanced him one position in the championship standings.

Valley Tech joins SHR for the second of two races this season in hopes of riding Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Mustang to victory lane this weekend. Valley Tech Learning partners with companies, educational institutions, and municipalities to provide always-on, on-demand interactive instruction for the most in-demand technical skills for today’s marketplace. Through a unique, highly accessible platform designed to more effectively upskill current employees and future workforce members, Valley Tech enables communities to become more competitive and serve all who aspire to learn and succeed in today’s knowledge economy.

Almirola has always valued the importance of an education, even as he worked his way toward the pinnacle of North American motorsports. While he rose through the racing ranks from the World Karting Association to open-wheel Modifieds to Late Model stock cars, he attended the University of Central Florida, where he pursued a degree in mechanical engineering. But after two years in college, Almirola earned an opportunity with Joe Gibbs Racing that ultimately led him to the NASCAR Cup Series.

“My parents and grandparents instilled in me the value of an education,” he said. “In order to go racing, I had to perform in school, and that included college. I continue to use what I learned in high school and at UCF to this day. Racing is a detail industry where knowledge is power. I can’t thank all of my teachers and professors enough. Between them and my family, they gave me the tools to succeed.”

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. 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.

The 35-year-old Ford driver has earned one pole award, one top-five, 10 top-10s and has led 100 laps through 18 races this season. His qualifying efforts have also been strong with five front-row starts and eight top-five starts this season.

 

ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Valley Tech Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

How much different is a night race versus a day race?

“You know to plan for it. You know your car isn’t going to be perfect. If it’s perfect when you start the race, you better be prepared to make major changes as the sun goes down. The track is going to change so much. It’s important for me to provide constructive feedback on how the car is handling so that the crew can make the right adjustments. So much can change from day to night, it’s important to have patience.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2019 Kentucky Race Advance

It’s been an impressive few opening chapters in what should be a long history book for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).

The Kannapolis, North Carolina-based team has won 51 times in 1,188 races since its first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in 2009. The organization owned by Gene Haas and three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart has notched championships with Stewart in 2011 and Kevin Harvick in 2014.

SHR celebrated its first Daytona 500 victory in 2017 when Kurt Busch took the checkered flag, and each SHR driver made the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs while combining for 12 victories. SHR drivers have won at every active track on the Cup Series tour except one: Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, where the series races Saturday night in the Kentucky 400.

No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford Mustang driver Clint Bowyer would like to write his name in the SHR record book by bringing home a trophy from the 1.5-mile track about 40 miles southwest of Cincinnati.

“We’d like to check that box off our list,” said Bowyer, who’s earned two of his 10 career victories at SHR. “That’s a significant accomplishment. As competitive as this series is, to have won at every track is pretty rare. That’s a testament to the quality of work done back at our shop and the drivers who’ve driven these cars over the years.”

SHR has come close several times at Kentucky posting four top-fives and 11 top-10s in 27 races. Bowyer has raced well at Kentucky but only has one top-five to show for it in eight career starts.

“Kentucky has always been hit or miss for me,” he said. “Sometimes I hit it and sometimes I miss it. I don’t know why. I’ve had really strong runs there and other times I’ve just struggled for grip. I feel like I am on pins and needles there.”

Bowyer arrives at Kentucky after finishing 34th Sunday at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where he started 16th and raced among the leaders throughout the event, even leading three laps. As rain approached with just 35 laps remaining, Bowyer made a bid for the lead before leader Austin Dillon attempted to block, triggering a multicar accident.

The finish moved Bowyer to 15th in the playoff standings with just eight races remaining before the start of the 16-driver playoffs Sept. 15 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With the playoffs nearing, a good run is a must for Bowyer at Kentucky, and he knows the track’s biggest challenge as well as anyone.

“Kentucky is a very tricky track,” he said. “It’s very fast. It’s very unique in the sense that both ends of the track are very different. The entrance to turn three is what sticks out to me when you think of Kentucky. That turn is so deceiving, and it entices you to drive in way too deep. That’s because it’s so flat that the car wants to get really loose getting in there. All of a sudden you’ve got to really slow it down, and the exit opens up a lot into that dogleg. You carry a tremendous amount of speed through turns one and two, which is what gets you into trouble going into turn three.”

Bowyer will likely be a factor in the Bluegrass State, where his No. 14 Mustang will carry the decals of Rush Truck Centers and Haas Automation this weekend.

Rush Truck Centers has been the primary partner on the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017 and has been with the organization since 2010. The Texas-based company has used Bowyer and the team to appeal to NASCAR fans as one way to recruit the technicians it needs to operate the largest network of commercial truck and bus dealerships in the country, with locations in 22 states. According to Rush Truck Centers, the trucking industry is expected to need 200,000 diesel technicians over the next 10 years to keep up with maintenance demands. Rush Truck Centers wants to make NASCAR fans aware of these opportunities.

Haas Automation is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1.1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

Haas is hoping to see his company’s own logos in victory lane in Kentucky to complete the sweep for his race team of all the sport’s active tracks.

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What are your thoughts about Kentucky Speedway?

“Kentucky is a fun racetrack and a really fun crowd. Since I’ve been going there back to the Xfinity days, Kentucky always has a good crowd and a great turnout. As challenging as it us for the drivers the track is a great place for fans.”

What are your thoughts on the 2016 repaving at Kentucky?

“The brutal honesty of a repave is, for whatever reason, the first race after the repave is always the worst race. It gets better each race afterward. The grip level is so high and you are going so fast, it’s a challenge to create side-by-side racing with a lot of passes. The silver lining is it’s only going to get better from now on.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2019 NXS Kentucky Race Advance

Race Name: Alsco 300 (Race 17 of 33)
Venue: Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky
Television: 7:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 3rd; trails points leader by 81 points
– Chase Briscoe: 10th; trails points leader by 220 points

Ford’s racing program is part of the Ford Performance organization based in Dearborn, Mich. It is responsible for major racing operations globally, including NASCAR, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, FIA World Endurance Championship, FIA World Rally Championship, Virgin Australia Supercars, Formula Drift, and NHRA Funny Car and sportsman drag racing. In addition, the organization also oversees the development of Ford’s racing engines, as well as the outreach programs with all Ford Clubs and Ford enthusiasts. For more information regarding Ford racing’s activities, please visit www.fordperformance.com, Ford Performance on Facebook, Ford Performance on Instagram and @FordPerformance on Twitter.

You’re making your first Xfinity Series start at Kentucky Speedway, how are you preparing for this weekend?

“I have been to Kentucky one time in Trucks and one time in ARCA, but this will be my first time hitting the track in an Xfinity car. I have been talking with Cole and the other Stewart-Haas drivers this week to try and pick up some tips and just really know what to expect. We will go to the Ford simulator just like we do every week as well and try to get the best possible feel for the track before we get there on Thursday. I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m ready to get the No. 98 Ford Performance Mustang back up front.”

COLE CUSTER – 2019 NXS Kentucky Race Advance

Race Name: Alsco 300 (Race 17 of 33)
Venue: Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky
Television: 7:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 3rd; trails points leader by 81 points
– Chase Briscoe: 10th; trails points leader by 220 points

Haas Automation, Inc., is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Gene Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1,100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets that provides the industry’s best sales, service and support while offering unparalleled cost-to-performance value.

Mike Shiplett has a good track record going into Kentucky Speedway. Does this give you a confidence boost going into the weekend?

“With Shiplett’s record, especially the last couple of years at Kentucky, it definitely provides a good amount of confidence that we will have a good car when we unload this weekend. I think we have shown that we are good at every type of track we have been to this year, but 1.5-mile tracks seem to really showcase our strength and how well SHR builds cars for these types of tracks. I look forward to getting to the track and showing what we have this weekend and hopefully we can keep our top-five streak at Kentucky alive from 2017 and 2018.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2019 Daytona II Race Advance

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.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Daytona II Race Advance

Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head south to Florida for Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400, the 18th race of the season. Suárez’s racecar will be adorned with the familiar black-and-red Haas Automation livery for this year’s third superspeedway event.

Daytona is the first track the Cup Series will return to this season. NASCAR’s premiere series opened the 2019 season at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway in February. That event marked Suárez’s first time behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang for SHR, and he finished 33rd after an accident prematurely ended his day.

Suárez is looking for a little luck after coming off a 24th-place finish in last weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. The Ford driver worked his way up into the top-10 but contact from another competitor caused a tire to go down and forced Suárez to pit road for an unscheduled green-flag stop, which put him two laps down on the 1.5-mile oval.

The Mexico native is looking to improve on his Daytona finishes as the superspeedway hasn’t been kind to him. Suárez has five Cup Series starts at the high-banked track and has led a total of 11 laps. The pack racing that is standard fare there has proved challenging for Suárez, with an average starting position of 22.2 and an average finishing position 30.2 to show for it. He’s been caught up in the typical superspeedway accidents more often than not in his young Cup Series career.

He has seven starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Daytona with one pole position earned in July 2015, along with three top-five and four top-10 starting spots. A speed of 180.256 mph there earned his first career Xfinity Series pole. In total, the 2016 Xfinity Series champion has an average Daytona starting position in that series of 12.9 and an average finishing position of 25.0, along with 12 laps led. Additionally, Suárez has two NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series starts at Daytona with results of ninth and 28th.

The Haas driver is currently 15th in the Cup Series standings with SHR teammate Clint Bowyer in 16th to round out the four-driver contingent. The top 16 drivers after the 26 regular-season races will earn a spot in the NASCAR playoffs. If Suárez captures a playoff position, it will be the first of his Cup Series career. Last year, all four SHR entries secured at least one win and a playoff spot.

SHR has three wins as an organization at Daytona – former SHR driver Kurt Busch in the 2017 Daytona 500, and team co-owner Tony Stewart in the 2009 and 2012 July races.

Ford has 37 all-time Cup Series wins at Daytona and has captured eight victories in the last 17 events there. Ford has found most of its success in the July Daytona event, winning two of the last three and four of the last eight.

 

DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

This is your third Cup Series season. Do you expect to be one of the 16 drivers in the playoffs?

“Yes, I have that expectation and we have to work hard for it. I think we have everything it takes to do it, but we’ll see. The team has high expectations and we both want more than just to make the playoffs, and I’m up for the challenge.”

Is there a different type of motorsport that you have never raced that you want to race?

“I hear a lot about the Chili Bowl, Sprint cars and Late Models on dirt with Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart. And as a driver who comes from Mexico, all I have raced is go-karts on asphalt. I have never run dirt in a car in my life. The only time I’ve been on dirt is because I’ve been on a motorcycle or on a four wheeler, but never in a racecar. The culture in Mexico is a little bit different and we don’t have dirt tracks for cars. All we do on dirt is motorcycles, motocross and stuff like that.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2019 Daytona II Race Advance

More than 40 years ago, Mobil 1 motor oil entered the marketplace, making it the first globally available, full-synthetic automotive motor oil. Though it was originally released to safely enhance fuel efficiency, later formulations of Mobil 1 motor oil offered outstanding wear protection over the widest range of temperatures.

Now, more than four decades later, Mobil 1 remains the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand. It has pushed forward the boundaries of automotive lubricant technology, evolving and improving to keep engines running like new, mile after mile, since 1974. From its vital role in the world of motorsports to its many scientific breakthroughs, Mobil 1 motor oil has a rich story with plenty of twists and turns.

In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series. It also provides primary sponsorships on Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick’s Mustangs at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) at various Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races throughout the year. The Mobil 1 brand also serves as an associate sponsor for all four SHR drivers at all other races. Since 2011, ExxonMobil has been providing lubricant technology support to the SHR team, which helped drivers Tony Stewart and Harvick earn series championships for SHR in 2011 and 2014.

Bowyer and Harvick along with SHR teammates Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez hope to demonstrate the Mobil 1 advantage on the high banks of Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway Saturday night in the 61st annual Coke Zero Sugar 400.

“Daytona is a challenge for everyone, not just the drivers,” said Bowyer, who will pilot the No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Mustang at Daytona. “You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that Saturday night in Florida is going to be hotter than you know what. That means those engines, gears and everything are going to be stressed. We feel like we have a competitive advantage over the other teams because our Mobil 1 lubricants have been tested and proven to be the best on the track. It means better horsepower, reduced friction, and outstanding wear protection for our Mustangs. In this sport, even the tiniest advantage is a huge advantage.”

Bowyer said that technology and engineering works in his personal car as well as his racecar.

“Look, I have said several times over the last few years that Mobil 1 is more than a sponsor at SHR,” he said. “Most of the time I come into the 14 hauler, I see Mobil 1 folks testing our lubricants and doing stuff to make us better. These guys are always looking for ways to make things faster and more efficient. I see firsthand that the Mobil 1 lubricant engineering teams know engines better than anyone else in the industry. From racecars to my truck on the farm, Mobil 1 synthetic oil prolongs the life of every car better than conventional oil.”

Bowyer needs the Mobil 1 advantage as NASCAR’s playoffs draw near. Counting Daytona, only nine races remain before the 2019 playoffs begin Sept. 15 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Bowyer occupies the 16th and final playoff spot and is only 15 points ahead of 17th place. A win will secure a playoff position, but a good finish will certainly help, too, as Bowyer is only 68 out of 10th place.

Daytona and Bowyer have enjoyed a love-hate relationship over the years. In 27 career starts, he owns four top-five finishes and 12 top10s and has led 159 laps. He battled for victory in the Daytona 500 in February, when he restarted fifth with two laps to go. Bowyer dove to the inside on the backstretch to grab the third spot, but clipped another car. The contact sent Bowyer into a spin, collecting several cars. The No. 14 team attempted to make repairs but could not continue and he finished 20th.

“It’s time for a victory,” said Bowyer, who arrives at Daytona after finishing 37th at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois last weekend. “We ran really well in the Daytona 500 and had a chance at the end. I expect we’ll have our chances again Saturday night. We have to take advantage. We know we are a good team and certainly want to get on a roll in these upcoming races to have momentum going into the playoffs.”

In addition to Mobil 1, Bowyer’s No. 14 will carry the decals of Rush Truck Centers again this weekend in Daytona. Rush Truck Centers has been the primary partner on the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017 and has been with the organization since 2010. The Texas-based company has used Bowyer and the team to appeal to NASCAR fans as one way to recruit the technicians it needs to operate the largest network of commercial truck and bus dealerships in the country, with locations in 22 states.

According to Rush Truck Centers, the trucking industry is expected to need 200,000 diesel technicians over the next 10 years to keep up with maintenance demands. Rush Truck Centers wants to make NASCAR fans aware of these opportunities and knows that, with Bowyer’s background, he is the right guy to help get the message out.

“Mobil 1 and Rush Truck Centers are two longtime SHR partners and really important to what we are doing,” he said. “There would be nothing better than to get a win Saturday night in Daytona. That would be a helluva a fireworks show after the race.”

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

How predictable is a Daytona race?

“It’s one of those things where you can be leading coming to the white flag and finish 15th to 20th. I’ve done that. I’ve also been way back in the pack, then somehow picked my way through it on the last lap and got a good, solid finish. It’s a rollercoaster, just like it has been with everybody. You go from thinking, ‘I got ’em!’ to ‘Oh, no! How have we done so wrong?’ I mean, it’s just one of those emotional rollercoaster races where you just never know what’s going to happen. I had the Daytona 500 won in 2010, and they literally used the Bondo out of the haulers to fix the track. I didn’t win that year but, before that happened, I just knew I had it won. Whether it’s a track surface, somebody hitting a jet dryer and blowing up, or coming down to a green-and-white checkered at the end, you just never know the recipe and what it’s going to take to win there.”

What are your first memories of racing at Daytona International Speedway?

“I remember Richard Childress hiring me and sending me to an ARCA test at Daytona. My eyes are this big – ‘Daytona? Really?’ To be able to roll through that tunnel and see those high banks and Daytona, that’s your ‘I’ve made it’ moment and it’s still that way today. Every time you go there in February and roll through those tunnels and see them high banks, it just gives you chills. You know what I mean? You come back in July, you don’t have – those are sweats, that’s sweat, those aren’t chills anymore. If you get chills in July, you need to go lay down, you’re too hot. But so much fun to be able to go back there, and every single year it’s just meaningful to get on those high banks and be able to compete at Daytona because, for me, it’s always been that moment of, ‘Hey, man, I got here.”

The big wrecks are common to Daytona. Do you get mad when you are in an accident?

“There is a lot of emotion in our sport. Again, the sport’s dangerous. Tracks are different. We have short tracks. We have mile-and-a-half tracks. We have the big tracks we used to call restrictor-plate tracks where we see cars flying through the air like lawn darts. You just have a different variety of situations you’re in all the time throughout the year, so sometimes the level of – I guess I call it – fear. Call it whatever you want, it changes your emotion as you get out of a wreck or something like that. If it was something that somebody put you in harm’s way, that honestly could have hurt you badly or even potentially killed you, the level of anger and emotion is definitely different.”

What does Mobil 1 bring to SHR?

“Mobil 1 provides the entire SHR team with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all Stewart-Haas Racing cars have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. Every time we receive a new formulation from Mobil 1, it exceeds our expectations.”