Summer Heats Up at Chicagoland
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (June 27, 2018) – It’s back to a more traditional oval circuit for Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.
Almirola’s first of two races last weekend on the road course at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway was Saturday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race, in which he finished second. Almirola took part in the Saturday race looking to gain more road-course experience for Sunday’s main event. The extra track time in the K&N race, along with a strong Ford Fusion and solid calls by crew chief John Klausmeier, led Almirola to an eighth-place result in the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. The finish marked the Tampa native’s strongest finish at a road course in his Cup Series career.
It’s been since Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway that the Cup Series has raced on a mile-and-a-half track, the configuration that dominates the 36-race schedule. Almirola finished 13th at Charlotte and looks for another competitive weekend at Chicagoland. In his first Cup Series start at the suburban Chicago track in September 2012, he earned the outside pole position. His best finish at the track is 10th, which he earned in September 2015.
At 1.5-mile tracks this season, Almirola hasn’t finished outside of the top-13, with the exception of a 32nd-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth due to an accident. For the past seven seasons, Chicagoland Speedway has kicked off the NASCAR playoffs. However, this year the venue’s race date was moved to July, when the track hosted Cup Series races from 2001 through 2010.
In 16 Cup Series starts this year, Almirola has accrued an average start of 20.1, an average finish of 11.8, and he rounds out the SHR four-car contingent with the 10th spot in the point standings. Additionally, Almirola has had three Cup Series career-best finishes in a row – seventh at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, 11th Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, and eighth at Sonoma.
Almirola has four career Xfinity Series starts at Chicagoland, starting inside the top-10 each time, including one pole award in June 2011. The 34-year-old garnered two top-five finishes and two top-10s and led 10 laps in those four Xfinity Series starts. He also has two starts in the Camping World Truck Series at the track, both resulting in top-10 finishes.
With summer in full swing, fans have the opportunity to celebrate the 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 year. Fans are encouraged to nominate their favorite grill hero by visiting SmithfieldGetGrilling.com. 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.
Fans can also 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 SmithfieldRacing.com, or by texting SMOKE to 82257.
Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion had a different look for May’s non-points-paying NASCAR All-Star Race. 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.
This weekend’s event at Chicagoland Speedway marks the 15th 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 has earned eight wins so far this season with Almirola’s SHR teammates earning seven of the victories for the blue oval – five by Kevin Harvick and two by Clint Bowyer. Harvick also captured the non-points-paying All-Star Race win at Charlotte.
Aric Almirola: Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How do you feel about going to Chicagoland this weekend?
“I feel like if we go there and do all of the basics right, we’ll run in the top-10. If we get it all perfect, we’ll have a shot to be in victory lane with our Smithfield Ford Fusion. At each of the last three tracks, I’ve had the best finishes of my Cup career, so I’m really on a roll and I have a strong team behind me.”
Who inspired you to race?
“I grew up watching my grandfather race dirt cars all over the Southeast and he was really talented. I fell in love with watching him race. He retired when I was 8 years old and asked me if I wanted to try my hand at racing. I did, so he bought me a go-kart and away we went. I started racing in Florida and, after the first year, we started traveling all over the East Coast racing in the World Karting Association. I raced on dirt ovals and I just loved it. From go-kart racing, I moved up to stock cars and Late Models and had some success in every rank that I competed at. It eventually led me to moving to North Carolina and I started driving a Late Model stock car for Joe Gibbs Racing. I kind of got my foot in the door with major teams in NASCAR and was able to bounce around for a few years until I found a home at Richard Petty Motorsports to drive in the Cup Series. That opportunity parlayed into the opportunity that I have now at Stewart-Haas Racing.”
Chicagoland Speedway Notes of Interest:
- Aric Almirola will make his seventh Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois this weekend. Sunday’s event will mark Almirola’s 261st career Cup Series race.
- The Tampa native has an average starting position of 18.0 and an average finishing position of 22.8 at the 1.5-mile track. In his first Cup Series start at the track, Almirola earned the outside pole position. He’s also led six laps at the venue.
- Almirola’s results at the last three tracks have been his best career Cup finishes at each venue – seventh at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, 11th at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, and eighth at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
- Almirola will appear at Smithfield’s Smokin’ Showdown display located in the Chicagoland Speedway fan midway at 10:55 a.m. CDT Sunday.
- All four of SHR’s entries at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway last weekend finished in the top-10. It was the second time this season that SHR had all four Ford Fusions in the top-10, the first coming March 11 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.
- Waffle House has teamed up with Smithfield on the No. 10 Ford Fusion for fans to participate in a new sweepstakes. The Norcross, Georgia-based restaurant has partnered with Smithfield to launch its “Who’s Your All-Star?” sweepstakes. Customers are encouraged to take a photo with their favorite Waffle House associate and post them on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #WhosYourAllStar. One grand prize winning customer and associate will each win a VIP experience at the Ford EcoBoost 400, NASCAR’s season finale in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
- Fans can enter for their chance to win the Smithfield Smoke Machine Ford Mustang designed by team co-owner Tony Stewart and drifting champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. for Smithfield’s Mustang giveaway. Fans can enter for their chance to win the tricked-out street car and a trip to November’s Ford Championship weekend at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway by visiting SmithfieldRacing.com or by texting SMOKE to 82257.
- Smithfield has launched its summer “Hero of the Grill” contest, during which fans are encouraged to submit their grilling hero nominee and for a chance to win $5,000. The first 10,000 nominees will have the chance to have their name featured on Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion at Richmond (Va.) Raceway in September. To nominate a grilling hero, visit SmithfieldGetGrilling.com.
- Ford has a series-best eight wins this season with seven of the victories coming from the SHR camp – Kevin Harvick with five and Clint Bowyer with two. Harvick also captured the $1 million grand prize with a victory at Charlotte’s All-Star Race.
- Johnny Klausmeier is in his first full-time season as a Cup Series crew chief. The native of Perry Hall, Maryland transitioned from an engineer to Almirola’s crew chief for the 2018 season. Klausmeier has one win as a substitute crew chief while filling in for Tony Gibson at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in June 2016. As a race engineer at SHR, Klausmeier has worked with drivers Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick and, most recently, Kurt Busch.
- Smithfield joined SHR this season and will be the primary partner for the majority of the season on the No. 10 Ford Fusion piloted by Almirola. 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.
- The 2018 season marks the 10th anniversary of SHR. The Kannapolis, North-Carolina-based team is co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas and has recorded 46 victories and 39 poles since its inception in 2009. Stewart won the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series title and Harvick gave SHR its second title in 2014. SHR’s Busch won last year’s Daytona 500, and Harvick won June 25 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and Nov. 5 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Harvick scored back-to-back-to-back victories – Feb. 25 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, March 4 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and March 11 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix – then back-to-back wins May 6 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, and May 12 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Harvick also won the non-points-paying Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte. Bowyer scored his two wins March 26 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and June 10 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.