Heading to the Bluegrass State
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (July 11, 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 Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. The intermediate ovals like Kentucky’s dominate the 36-race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
Almirola heads to the Bluegrass State after a 27th-place finish last weekend at the 2.5-mile Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway restrictor-plate track. He was involved in a 24-car accident at the beginning of Stage 2, and from there the No. 10 Smithfield crew worked hard to make repairs to Almirola’s Ford Fusion, allowing him to return to the track. However, a second on-track incident ended the Ford driver’s night prematurely.
For the second consecutive weekend, the Cup Series has a main event under the Saturday-night lights. Saturday-night races are overwhelming fan favorites as they enjoy seeing racecars leave sparks as they navigate the track under the lights, and teams find themselves dealing with considerable handling changes on the Cup Series cars as the race begins in the daylight and ends at night.
Two weeks ago at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway oval in Joliet, Illinois, Almirola led 70 laps and earned 10 stage points and one playoff point before he was relegated to a 25th-place finish. At 1.5-mile tracks this season, the Tampa native hasn’t finished outside the top-13, with the exception of a 32nd-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth due to an accident, and Chicagoland’s finish due to pit-road issues.
In 18 Cup Series starts this year, Almirola has accrued an average start of 19.7, an average finish of 13.3, and he rounds out the SHR four-driver contingent with the 10th spot in the point standings. In five career starts at Kentucky Speedway, Almirola has a best finish of 12th, earned in July 2015.
The SHR driver also has two career Xfinity Series starts at Kentucky with a best finish of sixth earned in June 2007. Additionally, he has three starts in the Camping World Truck Series with two top-five finishes.
This weekend, Almirola is supporting fellow competitor Jimmie Johnson’s foundation by wearing a special helmet visor strip during the 267-lap event. At the race’s conclusion, Almirola will autograph the visor, which will then be available in an online auction to raise funds for the Jimmie Johnson Foundation’s support of K-12 education.
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.
This weekend’s event at Kentucky marks the 17th 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 (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The manufacturer has 37 all-time series wins Daytona, and has earned eight wins in the last 16 races at the track.
Aric Almirola: Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion 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.”
How are you gelling with your team as the season goes on?
“We’ve got to continue to build a notebook together and that comes with time. We’ll all make mistakes – from me, to Johnny (Klausmeier, crew chief), to the crew, and we’ll learn from those mistakes and those growing pains. The goal is to go through the first three quarters of the season and have speed, and learn from all of our nuances. Then, by the time the playoffs start, we’ll fire on all eight cylinders.”
Kentucky Speedway Notes of Interest:
- Aric Almirola will make his sixth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta this weekend. Saturday night’s event will mark Almirola’s 263rd career Cup Series race.
- The Tampa native has an average starting position of 18.2 and an average finishing position of 22.4 at the Bluegrass State’s 1.5-mile oval. Almirola has a best Cup Series finish of 12th at Kentucky.
- Almirola also has two starts at Kentucky in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – June 2007 and July 2011. Additionally, he’s made three starts in the Camping World Truck Series and captured to two top-five finishes.
- Wednesday at 2 p.m. EDT, Almirola will appear at Kroger, located at 7855 Tylersville Road in West Chester, Ohio. The event is open to fans and includes several driver appearances throughout the day.
- 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 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.