CHASE BRISCOE – 2019 NXS Homestead Race Advance

Race Name: Ford Ecoboost 300 (Race 33 of 33)
Venue:  Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida
Television: 3:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: Part of Championship 4
– Chase Briscoe: T-5th with 2,252 points

  • During Chase Briscoe’s 2017 Truck Series campaign, he led 81 of 134 laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway en route to capturing his first-career truck series win.
  • Briscoe has one career Xfinity Series start at the 1.5-mile oval with a finish of 13th in 2018.
  • The driver of the No. 98 currently leads the Rookie of the Year standings in the Xfinity Series.
  • Through 32 races in 2019, Briscoe has 12 top-fives, 25 top-10’s and an average finish of 8.4.
  • The last time Richard Boswell was atop the pit box, he was crew chief for Cole Custer during the 2016 Xfinity Series season. They went on to finish on the lead lap in 17th.
  • Click here for Briscoe’s career stats.
  • Click here for Briscoe’s stats at Homestead.
  • Click here for photos of Chase.

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.comwww.facebook.com/FordPerformance, Ford Performance on Instagram and @FordPerformance on Twitter.

You came up one spot short of the Championship 4. How does that change your approach to this weekend?

“Obviously, it is disappointing to not be one of the four guys competing for a championship this weekend, but we are leading the rookie standings and still have a lot to race for. Homestead is one of my favorite tracks, because tires wear down quickly and you’ll see guys start running up close to the fence all the way around as the race goes on. We tested there back in August and were really fast, so I can’t wait to see how that speed transfers over to this weekend. We may not be in contention for the championship, but we are going to do everything we can to win the race and end this season on a high note.”

COLE CUSTER – 2019 NXS Homestead Race Advance

Race Name: Ford Ecoboost 300 (Race 33 of 33)
Venue:  Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida
Television: 3:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: Part of Championship 4
– Chase Briscoe: T-5th with 2,252 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.

You’re back at Homestead and in the Championship 4. What can you take away from the 2018 race and use towards this year?

“In 2018, we had a great car and we were able to lead 95 laps during the race, but we struggled a little bit on the long runs. Tyler Reddick was able to get the top going and had great long run speed and he was able to make it work for him. I tried late in the race to get the top going, but I couldn’t get it going as fast as him and watched him just drive away. Feeling that heart break has us set on kill for this weekend so we don’t have to experience that again and instead, we can hopefully be the ones celebrating on the frontstretch, but it’s going to take a near perfect race from everyone, which I know we are capable of doing.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2019 Homestead Race Advance

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway buoyed by hope after a career-best finish on a 1.5-mile oval two weekends ago at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

Almirola piloted the No. 10 Smithfield Ford to a second-place finish at Texas after leading 62 laps. He crossed the finish line just behind race-winning SHR and Ford Performance teammate Kevin Harvick, who will be one of four drivers competing for the 2019 championship Sunday at Homestead.

“It felt so good to run that well again, and Kevin put up a great race (at Texas),” Almirola said. “It was bittersweet running that well and coming up short, but Ford and SHR have a car racing for the championship this weekend. It’s been such a rollercoaster of a season starting out with a bang and having a rough patch the rest of the way. I’m hoping we can bring that same speed from Texas to Homestead so we can come back confident in 2020 and especially at the sixth race, which will be back at Homestead.”

After 35 races this season, Almirola has one pole, three top-five finishes, 12 top-10s and has led 180 laps. That adds to a career total of two wins, two poles, 18 top-five finishes, 61 top-10s and 537 laps led in 315 starts.

Almirola’s history at Homestead includes one top-five finish and three top-10s in nine starts on the 1.5-mile oval south of Miami.

In addition to his Cup Series races, Almirola has two Homestead starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, both resulting in top-10 finishes. He also has three starts in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series with one top-five finish and 15 laps led.

Not only is Sunday’s race the last of the 2019 season, it also marks the last of an 18-year streak of Cup Series season finales being held at Homestead. Next year’s season will end at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

“I think it’s good to change things up sometimes,” Almirola said. “Homestead has been a great track for NASCAR to crown a champion. I think the racetrack itself has been great. It’s a 1.5-mile track and there are great opportunities to pass, but our fans will have something else to look forward to next year, whether they’re watching from home or from the grandstands. They’ll have a new championship experience. I look forward to coming back to Homestead in March.”

Texas is the 31st event during which the Smithfield livery will adorn Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Mustang this year. Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, which is based approximately five hours northeast of SHR headquarters in Smithfield, Virginia, is in its eighth season with Almirola and its second 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.

Smithfield will rejoin Stewart-Haas Racing and Almirola for the 2020 season as the primary partner of the No. 10 Ford team.

“This is the opportunity every driver wants and I’m obviously very proud to have it continue,” Almirola said. “Our relationship with Smithfield is strong. From the customers to the retailers and all of the employees, we take a tremendous amount of pride in representing the Smithfield brand. They’re our biggest supporters and it’s what drives us every time we hit the racetrack. To have them back on board in 2020 makes me excited to get back in the car next February to put them in victory lane.”

As the season comes to a close this weekend, fans can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access in following “Aric ‘Beyond the 10’” by subscribing to his YouTube channel. Episodes showcase never-before-seen footage of Almirola at the racetrack, on family trips, and “A Day in the Life” during the week, as well as all that goes into a NASCAR Cup Series driver’s season. Fans can tune in this weekend for full access to Almirola’s playoff media day, NASCAR Burnout Boulevard and the Las Vegas race weekend. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.

Almirola sits 14th in the standings with 2,219 points heading into the final race of the 2019 season.

 

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

 

What does racing at Homestead over the years mean to you? 

“Homestead for me has been a great racetrack. It’s really how I got my start to go Cup racing. I filled in for Richard Petty Motorsports back in 2010 and I finished fourth after running up front. That opened some people’s eyes. Sure enough, I got my first start in the Cup Series because of it.”

What’s it like wanting to compete for a win, but having a teammate competing for a championship at the same time? 

“Having a teammate out there racing for a championship is always something you’ll have in the back of your mind. You’re out there racing for yourself, but you’re also racing for your team and Ford Motor Company. It’s been a long year and I’d love to cap it off with a win – that’s top of mind. If I’m leading and Kevin comes in second, then we all win. Kevin will be the champion and I win the race, but otherwise you have to be very mindful and I don’t want to put Kevin in a bad spot on restarts or on pit road, so you’re always conscious of that.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2019 Homestead Race Advance

Anything less than battling for a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title is a disappointment for Clint Bowyer, but he also recognizes the progress his No. 14 Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has made since replacing three-time champion and now co-car owner Tony Stewart in 2017.  As the Cup Series prepares for the final race of the year in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Bowyer sees many positives from his third season driving for SHR.

“We had some good runs and tough runs this year,” said Bowyer, who enters Sunday’s finale 11th in points, just 16 behind 10th-place William Byron and 45 behind ninth-place Brad Keselowski. “But, everybody worked hard all year and kept at it.”

Bowyer so far has earned seven top-five finishes, 17 top-10s and a pole position in 2019. Last weekend at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, he finished eighth, the second-highest-finishing non-playoff driver.

“We started slow out of the box as we got used to the new cars, then we ran good through May but we just couldn’t get away from bad luck during the summer months,” he said. “All summer long, it was one crummy thing after another and just a letdown – a strong run only to be let down with something crazy happening. We picked it up as we got near the playoffs and, once we were in, we ran well and made it through the first round.”

Bowyer advanced to the Round of 12 but fell a few points short of advancing into the Round of 8 mainly due to bad luck during the round’s second race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. He won the first stage of the race and looked to be one of the favorites to win overall as the race progressed. However, Bowyer cut a tire midway through the race that sent the No. 14 into a spin and left him stuck for two laps where the apron and banking met on the track.

It took away any chance for victory and his best chance of moving into the next round of the playoffs.

“In the playoffs, we stepped up in a big way,” he said. “Not having a points pad or anything like that and going into those rounds was difficult. Those guys had 20 or 30 points on us. Had we not got stuck on the track in Talladega, we would be right there. We knew that was the opportunity, but unfortunately it just wasn’t our day.”

While Bowyer, whose race start at Talladega was the 500th of his career, does his best to secure the first victory of the season this weekend and finish in the top-10 in points for the sixth time in his career, he does have a rooting interest Sunday night as his SHR teammate Kevin Harvick attempts to bring the 11-year-old team its third title. Bowyer, who was also a teammate to Harvick at Richard Childress Racing from 2006 to 2011, said he has no doubt Harvick and the No. 4 team can win the championship again.

“Those guys are good,” Bowyer said. “You saw what Kevin did at Texas in the closing laps, and he was up there at Phoenix. I expect that same Kevin Harvick on Sunday. He has a good team, crew, SHR, Roush-Yates engines and Ford behind him, so he’s showing up with the best of everything in Homestead.”

It’s fitting that Bowyer’s No. 14 Mustang ends the season this weekend carrying the decals of Rush Truck Centers and Haas Automation – the two sponsors that most often appeared on the car in 2019.

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 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 1.1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

As the 2019 Cup Series season comes to an end, Bowyer is already looking forward to 2020. He and SHR agreed to an extension and he’ll return behind the wheel of the No. 14 when the 2020 season commences Feb. 16 with the Daytona 500. Just as important, Bowyer seems happy with his station in life and career as a driver – and thankful.

“I love what I do,” he said. “I just love the people. I’ve always loved people. I grew up, my father owns a towing business. You’re always out meeting people and, when you meet them, they’re people not necessarily in the best of moods or the best of situations. They’ve either wadded their car up or the damn thing has let them down, or they’ve had a flat tire, run it out of gas, something. You’re always helping somebody out of bad situation, but nonetheless I was always in and out of truck shops.

“You talk about a perfect fit with Rush Truck Centers. That’s literally what I grew up doing. I remember being a little kid and pulling into a Peterbilt shop with my old man with one on the back of it and rolling into a truck shop and getting that thing fixed and unloading it. You’re always around people, so when you come to something like this, it’s like a candy store for me. All the fans and interacting with them, whether they like you or hate you, it’s still fun, it’s still a fun interaction.”

 

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

 

How important is Homestead this weekend to you?

“Whenever you race, you want to win, whether it’s the season-ending Cup race or racing your brothers on dirt bikes in the backyard. Homestead is no different. There’s going to be a lot on the line with those guys racing for a championship, but the rest of us are going to race for a trophy, as well. It’s tough to win these races, so anyone who takes the checkered flag Sunday is going to be more than happy. But, think of the momentum it builds. You spend the entire offseason knowing you are the most current winner. You’ll still be happy when you get to Daytona in February.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Homestead Race Advance

For the season finale, Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head to Homestead-Miami Speedway in South Florida for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Just like he began the season, Suárez will pilot the red-and-black Haas Automation paint scheme.

Suárez joined SHR in January for his third full-time season in the Cup Series. The 27-year-old endured a manufacturer change, a rules package change in addition to everything else that comes up with joining a new team. While the No. 41 team has not found their way to victory lane yet, it will be the best Cup season of Suárez’s career.

Last Sunday at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, the Ford driver started from the 15th position and rebounded from a pit road speeding penalty early on to be in the 11th position when the final caution of the race came out with nine laps to go. Ultimately, he finished 15th after contact with competitors vying for a top-10 spot in the final laps.

The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion has one more chance to become the first Mexican born driver to earn a victory in NASCAR’s most prestigious series. Suárez does know how to find his way to victory lane at Homestead as this is the same track where he captured the victory in 2016 to earn him the Xfinity Series title.

The Mexico native has two Cup Series starts at Homestead. He’s looking to improve on his best finish of 30th at the 1.5-mile venue.

In the Xfinity Series at Homestead, Suárez has a sixth-place finish and one victory, respectively. For starting positions, he has one pole award and an outside pole position. In his 2016 championship winning season, he led 133 laps to capture the season ending title.

In the Gander Outdoor Truck Series, Suárez has two starts with a best finish of sixth, earned in November 2016. His average starting position is 11.5 and average finishing position is 18.0.

In his last 10 starts at 1.5-mile tracks, the Haas Automation driver has two top-five and four top-10 finishes, along with one pole which he captured at Kentucky Speedway in July. Overall, he has an average start of 11.7 and an average finish of 14.9, along with 134 laps led.

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

SHR has two victories at Homestead with a total of seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 31 starts at the mile-and-a-half track. Suárez’s SHR teammate, Kevin Harvick, is one of four drivers competing for the season ending championship this weekend.

With one race remaining, Suárez is 17th in the standings with 823 points and has four top-fives and 11 top-10s this season, along with 166 laps led. He has an average start of 14.1 and an average finish of 16.5.

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

 

How has been working with your teammates this year when it comes to stuff on the track?

“Most of the time we come to the track with very similar cars, but sometimes we come with very different cars. We’re good about sharing information and that really helps when someone brings a different car. We can provide notes on what worked, etc., We’ve all been good teammates and I’m very fortunate to have such a great group of guys.”

How would you consider your season has gone?

“I would say that I’ve had a good season. Of course I wish we would have a couple of wins and that would make it a great season. My crew has been great to work with. I really enjoy the guys and they work really hard. This is obviously my first year with this group of people, and I think the more we continue to work together, the better we’ll get.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2019 Homestead Race Advance

What started on Feb. 10, 2019 with the Advance Auto Parts Clash non-points race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway will now end with Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

A wise person once said, “It’s over, already?”

Indeed it is ending after 10 months, 36 points-paying Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races – and don’t forget the two exhibition races – with the season finale in South Florida. And Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is once again in the Championship 4 and has a shot at his second title.

It’s Harvick against the world – or Joe Gibbs Racing, at least – as the other three contestants in Sunday’s winner-take-all championship race are Gibbs teammates Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Denny Hamlin. Truex has seven wins in 2019, Busch has four and Hamlin six. So, it’s Gibbs 17 victories versus Harvick’s four.

Fortunately, previous victories don’t count and whoever among the four finishes the highest will win the championship. And, let’s be honest, getting there is half the battle because, as said by Jim Carrey’s character Lloyd Christmas in the smash hit Dumb and Dumber, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance …”

Harvick has been in the Championship 4 five times in the last six years, more than any other driver except Busch, who is in his fifth consecutive Championship 4. Harvick won the title in 2014, his first year with SHR, and finished second in 2015 and third in 2017 and 2018. Should he win the title, he would become just the 16th driver to win two or more championships.

Some drivers get nervous or anxious during these championship runs. Harvick lives for them. The more pressure the better because he’s been involved in the top three tiers of NASCAR racing since 1995 and has won 110 races, including 49 it the Cup Series.

Harvick has one win, one pole, 10 top-five finishes, 16 top-10s and has led a total of 373 laps in his 18 career Cup Series starts at Homestead. His average start there is 12.3, his average finish is 6.6, and he has a lap-completion rate of 99.9 percent – 4,811 of 4,812 laps available. His last finish outside the top-10 was a 19th in November 2007, one of his only two finishes outside the top-10.

He won the November 2006 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Homestead, as well as the Xfinity race pole in November 2004. He has five top-10s in eight career Xfinity starts.And in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series,Harvick has raced at Homestead six times and won the November 2009 race among his four top-five finishes in six Truck races there.

So here we go. It’s why drivers race for 10 months out of the year throughout 36 points-paying events – to win championships. And Harvick has that chance.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

 

Are there aspects of your team you are trying to shore up heading into Homestead or are you just rolling with what you have?

“I think it’s been a very interesting year for us. I think as you look at our year, it’s been a challenge in order to get where we are today, just to battle through the beginning of the year and get the ship turned around and in the right direction and really figure out exactly where we needed to be, what we needed to be doing. (They’re) just totally different concepts than the things we’ve done in the past and just those new concepts and mindsets, the way you race, the way you call a race, all those things that come together. I think the strength and experience of our race team has kind of carried the results that are in the finish column and the stages won and stage points and those types of things. As we went through the late summer and in the playoffs, I feel like we obviously have got our cars back to being competitive and, when I say competitive, I mean able to lead laps without circumstances, and so we’ve been able to do that. And as long as we keep doing those types of things this week, I think you’ve got to be in it to win it and just have to see how it falls.”

Did the win at Texas free you up to do that or would you still have done that?

“It would have been the same because that’s just how I guess we’re wired. You have to think about what you’re doing a long ways in advance. It’s from scheduling from a car’s standpoint with less cars next year, the types of racetracks, simulators, all those things have a schedule that’s attached to them. For me and my team, it’s not something you want to try to do six weeks in advance. It’s a process to try to get the most out of everything you do and have some sort of organization and thought around it in order to go to the simulator and try to make it relevant to what you do at the racetrack, and then your simulation and your aero maps and all those things that come with the things you do. The race still has the same meaning and we’re still gonna approach it the exact same way that we would have if we hadn’t have won, just because of the fact that it’s just what we do every week, and I know you guys have heard me say that we don’t prepare any different whether we win or lose. We might do things differently to the car as far as setups and the way they’re built and things like that, but the conversations and preparation are gonna happen on the same days at the same time and you can’t do the type of preparation you would do for a championship race like this next year overnight, so you have to have a plan.”

Is there any internal pressure on you to keep performing at this level?

“I think the competitive side of me would tell you yes, just because I don’t really want to race for 20th, and that challenge of the things we went through this year is definitely somewhat interesting to me because of the fact you have to really get in there with your guys and be a part of the process and routine of things in order to change something. It’s been challenging, but it’s also been a little intriguing to me just because of the fact you want to try to fix things and make them better and I feel like we’ve done a good job at that, but I think for me being competitive is really the thing that keeps me motivated. I love the fact that things change so much that you have to be open-minded to change and I always tell the guys in our trailer that you have to be open-minded in this sport or you’ll get left behind. It’s been fun to win races and be competitive, but it is definitely something that I think about every day. I want to be competitive and, in order to do that, sometimes people pay attention to an age or a stat and I hadn’t looked at a stat or watched a race in I can’t even tell you how long because I’m just worried about what we’re doing and trying to get better and really focused on a week-to-week basis and worry about the rest of it when you get done.”

Does it work in a sense between you and Rodney Childers because you just stay laser focused but don’t worry about other stuff, that you know he’s going to stay on top of everything and all the minutiae and details and all that?

“They expect me to come to the racetrack and be prepared. And the thing about being prepared for me is from a physical standpoint, a mental standpoint, to be as mentally focused as you can. And my age and experience kind of comes into that, I guess you could say sometimes, because you’ve been to some of these racetracks so many times, and I feel like I know the characteristics of the car. But there’s not a day that goes by that he (Rodney) doesn’t send me a text, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this,’ or one of the engineers will send me a text and say, ‘What do you think about this gear ratio or what do you think about whatever.’ One of them is texting me at least once a day, if not multiple times a day, as to what’s going on and what’s happening. Those are those relationships that are constant and steady, and everybody believes in each other because that’s just how it works. It’s never a bad time to text me or it’s never a bad time to call me. It’s never a bad time to ask me to do something. It’s never a bad time. When they need something, I put down what I’m doing and I go and I try to figure out how we’re going to do it and how we’re going to go to the simulator, how we’re going to go to the race shop, if you need me to come to a meeting, just tell me. The priority is these guys and that race team, and the things they need. But I am a thorough believer that the circle of life has to be balanced for you to show up to this racetrack every single week, to be as focused as you need to be to process all of that information and listen to those guys and listen to the things you do and know that I’m just a piece of information that allows them to put the puzzle together. It’s a big puzzle. You throw all the pieces out on the table and those guys put the puzzle together. There’s a deep belief in each other that we can go out and be better than anybody on any given day, and most of the time we can talk ourselves into it even when we probably don’t really have a chance. We can talk ourselves into it and, just by the experience of the things we do and the experience of racing in general and them calling a race, there’s just that belief that we can figure it out.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2019 Phoenix II Race Advance

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) enter the season’s penultimate Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race fresh off their best performance of the year at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

Almirola and the No. 10 Eckrich Ford team led 62 laps Sunday at Texas, made no mistakes and finished second behind teammate Kevin Harvick. It was Almirola’s best finish at Texas and marked his best finish at a 1.5-mile track. At Martinsville (Va.) Speedway the previous weekend, Almirola raced in and around the top-five for the majority of the race, showing the No. 10 team has found speed in the closing races of the 2019 season. But a lap-360 accident ended his day prematurely.

“I want to do that more,” Almirola said after the race at Texas. “It feels so good to cap off the season with great speed. These last few months have been rough for our team. When you win 14 or 15 races as an organization, the expectation is to do that again. When it doesn’t match up, the morale can go down for our guys. Now that we know we’re capable of speed it’s fun to head to Phoenix, where we’ve run well in the past, to compete for a win.”

ISM Raceway near Phoenix is the next stop on the Cup Series tour, and it could be Almirola’s best track for average running position all year. When he last visited the mile oval in March, he led his first laps at the venue, earned nine bonus points and equaled his best career Phoenix finish of fourth first earned in 2018. The 35-year-old hasn’t finished outside the top-seven there since joining SHR in 2018.

Almirola has certainly excelled in his seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix, having captured the pole in November 2011 to go with 74 laps led and a pair of top-10 finishes. Earlier in his career, Almirola made three starts in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at the “Diamond in the Desert.” Two of those three starts resulted in top-five finishes, and he led 52 laps.

Of Almirola’s 61 top-10s earned in 314 career Cup Series starts, 19 have been at tracks a mile in length or shorter. He has an average finish of 14.8 at Phoenix. In 17 career starts there, Almirola has earned two top-four finishes, four top-10s and has led 26 total laps.

After 34 races this season, Almirola has one pole, three top-five finishes, 12 top-10s and has led 180 laps. That adds to a career total of two wins, two poles, 18 top-five finishes, 61 top-10s and 537 laps led in 314 starts.

In addition to the intense racing action on track, Eckrich and ISM Raceway have teamed up to give fans the opportunity to win various prizes in victory lane. Starting Friday, fans can sign up to attempt to throw a football through a tire in the track’s infield to win select prizes. On race day, fans will have the opportunity to throw a football for prizes and donations with pit crew members on the No. 10 Eckrich Ford team, and one lucky fan will get to throw with Aric Almirola. At 9:30 a.m. local time, three fans and three pit crew members will pair up to make three teams. Each respective fan and crew member will attempt to throw a football through a tire and $50 per successful throw will be donated to the Victory Junction organization (https://victoryjunction.org – founded in honor of Adam Petty). The fan who makes the most throws through the tire will get the opportunity to throw with Almirola at 10 a.m. for a chance to earn up to $10,000 in donations to Victory Junction.

“I played baseball in high school and I’d say I’ve got a pretty good arm,” Almirola said with a laugh. “Hopefully, I can back it up and earn Victory Junction $10,000 on Sunday.”

Founded in 1894, Eckrich, owned by Smithfield Foods, will adorn the No. 10 Ford Mustang this weekend at Phoenix in college football fashion. Eckrich was founded as a local meat market in Fort Wayne, Indiana, by Peter Eckrich, an immigrant from Waldsee, Germany. Eckrich sells high quality smoked sausages, cold cuts, hot dogs, corn dogs, Vienna sausages, breakfast sausages, and bacon.

Fans can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access in following “Aric ‘Beyond the 10’” by subscribing to his YouTube channel. Episodes showcase never-before-seen footage of Almirola at the racetrack, on family trips, and “A Day in the Life” during the week, as well as all that goes into a NASCAR Cup Series driver’s season. Tune in this weekend for full access to Almirola’s playoff media day, NASCAR Burnout Boulevard and the Vegas race weekend. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.

As the season comes to a close, Almirola sits 13th in the standings with 2,204 points.

 

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

 

What’s the most important thing to be successful at Phoenix? 

“You have to have everything at Phoenix. You have to have downforce, grip in your car and good brakes. You have to make sure your car turns well across the center of turns one and two, which is a sharp, banked corner. And then you have turns three and four, which are really fast and sweeping and flat. You’ve got to have a car that’s versatile and is a good compromise for both corners.”

What makes Phoenix different than other short tracks on the circuit?

“Phoenix is just a fast short track. Ever since the repave, it races like a mile-and-a-half, which is different from a Richmond-, Martinsville- or Bristol-type of short track. It’s a fun race and I always look forward to heading out West to Phoenix.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2019 NXS Phoenix II Race Advance

Race Name: Desert Diamond West Valley Casino 200 (Race 32 of 33)
Venue: ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona
Television: 3:30 p.m. EDT on NBC
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 2nd; trails points leader by 31 points; 52 points above cutoff line
– Chase Briscoe: 5th; trails points leader by 65 points; 18 points below cutoff line

  • Chase Briscoe’s career-best finish at ISM Raceway is a fourth-place outing during his 2017 Gander Outdoors Truck Series campaign. He finished sixth here in the Spring of 2019 Xfinity Series race.
  • Through 31 races in 2019, Briscoe has 12 top-fives, 24 top-10’s and an average finish of 8.4.
  • Crew Chief Richard Boswell makes his second start at the 1-mile oval. In his first appearance atop the box, he helped secure a sixth-place finish for Briscoe in the Spring of 2019.
  • Click here for Briscoe’s career stats.
  • Click here for Briscoe’s stats at ISM Raceway
  • Click here for photos of Chase.

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.comwww.facebook.com/FordPerformance, Ford Performance on Instagram and @FordPerformance on Twitter.

You head into ISM Raceway 18 points below the cutoff line. What is your mindset going into the final race to secure a spot in the Championship 4?

“It’s essentially a must-win situation for us this weekend after the luck we had at Texas. Honestly, Phoenix isn’t one of my best racetracks, but we learned a lot back in the Spring and were able to get the car where I needed it to be towards the end of the race. Hopefully we will have good speed right out of the box and set ourselves up to battle for the win, so we can be one of the four cars battling for a championship. We won’t go down without a fight that’s for sure – I believe in my guys and think we can make it happen.”

COLE CUSTER – 2019 NXS Phoenix II Race Advance

Race Name: Desert Diamond West Valley Casino 200 (Race 32 of 33)
Venue: ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona
Television: 3:30 p.m. EDT on NBC
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 2nd; trails points leader by 31 points; 52 points above cutoff line
– Chase Briscoe: 5th; trails points leader by 65 points; 18 points below cutoff line


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.

You have a 52 point gap above the cutoff line heading into the final race before the Championship 4 race. Does that help with stress levels and confidence heading into this weekend?

“52 points is a great gap as we head into this weekend but it’s not something we can be comfortable with. If one of the guys below the cut line ends up grabbing a win, then I think we only sit 16 points ahead of Tyler Reddick and if we have a bad day or something happens early in the race, that could knock us out of contention. Our best bet is to just go into this race and get the Haas Automation car back into Victory Lane and control our own destiny. We had a really good car here in the Spring, one I think we were capable of winning with, so that is what our goal is for this weekend.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Phoenix II Race Advance

Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) journey out to ISM Raceway near Phoenix for Sunday’s penultimate Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season, the Bluegreen Vacations 500k. The Ford driver will pilot the red-and-black Haas Automation paint scheme for the remaining two races.

Suárez heads into the weekend after earning a third-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The finish tied his best finish of the season achieved earlier this year at the same 1.5-mile oval. The 27-year-old also led 25 laps and earned three bonus points in Sunday’s 334-lap race.

The Mexico native has five Cup Series starts at Phoenix with two top-10 finishes, an average starting position of 21.2 and an average finishing position of 18.4, and he’s completed 1,345 of 1,562 possible laps.

In addition to his Cup Series starts at the mile oval in the Arizona desert, Suárez also has five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts. With the exception of an accident in his 2017 start, Suárez hasn’t finished outside the top-11 there in the series where he was the 2016 champion. Suárez also has two Phoenix starts in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series with a win in November 2016 and a fourth-place finish in November 2015.

Before Suárez made his way to the ranks of NASCAR’s premiere series, he entered the sport via NASCAR’s weekly and touring series. While driving in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, he made three starts at Phoenix from 2011 to 2012 with best finishes of third in March 2012 and sixth in November 2011.

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

In Suárez’s last 10 Cup Series starts at tracks a mile or less in length, he has accumulated four top-10 finishes with 22 laps led and average starting and finishing positions of 18.6 and 16.8, respectively.

SHR has six victories along with 20 top-five finishes and 31 top-10s in 66 starts at the Phoenix track. The six victories are the most for SHR at any track.

With two races remaining, Suárez is 17th in the standings with 801 points and has four top-fives and 11 top-10s this season, along with 166 laps led. He has an average start of 14.1 and an average finish of 16.5. He earned his second career Cup Series pole, first with the No. 41 team, in July at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

 

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

 

How do you get around the track at Phoenix?

“You can cut the corner at Phoenix. The biggest thing when you do that is the splitter hitting the ground and the car in general hitting the ground because the car is so close to the ground. It’s just difficult to take care of the car doing that. We use extremely low air pressure in the left-side tires and that, combined with the car being so close to the ground already, makes Phoenix really challenging, especially in the short run. In the long run, the car usually gets tight at Phoenix. I really like Phoenix a lot and feel like I always have good speed there, but it’s a difficult place. You have to be very, very patient, take care of the brakes. It’s just a tricky place.”