ARIC ALMIROLA
Ready for Winding Weekend at Sonoma

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (June 20, 2018) – Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) venture to California for this weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. The series was on hiatus last weekend but, heading into the off weekend, Almirola scored an 11th-place finish at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

Sonoma marks the first of two road-course events this season. Nestled in Northern California’s Wine Country, its 1.99-mile, 12-turn circuit has proved to be trying for Almirola. Given the challenge the road course poses to the Tampa native, he’s looking to gain more practice by participating in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race Saturday afternoon with an entry fielded by SHR. It’s not uncommon for NASCAR Cup Series drivers to participate in the Saturday event. In fact, Almirola’s SHR teammate Kevin Harvick captured the victory in the 2017 K&N race there.

The Smithfield driver has six Cup Series starts at Sonoma with a best finish of 14th in June 2015 and a 99.7 lap completion percentage in his six starts. SHR drivers have won the last two Sonoma races – Tony Stewart in 2016 and Harvick in 2017. Almirola looks to greatly improve his performance at Sonoma, in particular, just as he’s done throughout this season. After 15 starts this year, he’s accrued an average start of 19.9, an average finish of 12.0, and he rounds out the SHR four-car contingent with an 11th spot in the point standings.

While Almirola’s main purpose this weekend in Sonoma is to pilot the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion, he and his wife Janice headed out to the area earlier this week to enjoy a few days away from the racetrack. “I love going to Sonoma with my wife and enjoying Wine Country,” he said. “We have great friends who live in the Santa Rosa and Windsor areas and we get to visit with them. I just really like going out there a couple of days early to enjoy the great food and wine. We definitely make more out of it besides a work trip.”

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 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 last month’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 Save Mart 350k at Sonoma marks the 14th 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 a majority of the victories for the blue oval – Harvick with five and Clint Bowyer with two. Harvick also captured the All-Star Race win at Charlotte.

Aric Almirola: Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What do you need at Sonoma to be successful?

“Patience and grip. Sonoma is really low on grip, and it’s really slow and technical compared to Watkin Glen.”

Road Courses are unique tracks in the Cup Series, what do you focus on this weekend?

“My focus in the past with the road courses has been, ‘Let’s go here and let’s not get a DNF, let’s not run off course and let’s be smart. Let’s get out of there with a top-15 or top-20 finish,’ and, a lot of times, we were actually able to do that. I feel like this year is a lot different for me. I don’t want anything to be a weak link and road courses are for me as a driver but, for SHR, its their strong suit with (Kevin) Harvick winning Sonoma last year, and Tony (Stewart) winning the year before at Sonoma. And Clint (Bowyer) and Kurt (Busch) are both past winners at Sonoma. Part of the reason why I’m running the K&N race is to help me improve as a driver on the road course. I’m going to have every opportunity to be more successful road-course racing this year than I’ve ever have before.”

Sonoma Raceway Notes of Interest:

  • Aric Almirola will make his seventh Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway this weekend. The 100-lap event will mark Almirola’s 260th career Cup Series race.
     
  • The Tampa native has an average starting position of 30.8 and an average finishing position of 23.3 at the 11-turn, 1.99-mile road course.
  • In addition to piloting the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion in the Cup Series this weekend at Sonoma, Almirola will also compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race Saturday afternoon to hone is road-racing skills before Sunday’s main event.
  • On Sunday morning at Sonoma, Almirola and SHR team co-owner Tony Stewart will appear at Smithfield’s Smokin’ Showdown display located in the fan midway at 9:30 a.m. PDT.
  • 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.