Bristol Dirt Advance
No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
● Event: Food City Dirt Race (Round 8 of 36)
● Time/Date: 7:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 9
● Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
● Layout: .533-mile oval
● Laps/Miles: 250 laps/125.5 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 75 laps / Stage 2: 75 laps / Final Stage: 100 laps
● TV/Radio: FOX / PRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Notes of Interest
● Dirt Racing History: Beginning in 2006, Almirola had seven annual starts in the Prelude to the Dream charity dirt-racing event that Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart hosted from 2005 to 2012 at his Eldora Speedway half-mile oval in Rossburg, Ohio. Almirola scored a best finish of third and earned four top-10 finishes in those seven outings. Almirola also won an exhibition race at the Talladega (Ala.) Short Track.
● Almirola’s experience in the inaugural Bristol Dirt Race in 2021 was short-lived. He started 23rd and began to run better lap times than the majority of the field by lap 20. On lap 39, his No. 10 SHR Ford and the No. 77 of Stewart Friesen made contact. The contact sent Almirola into a large clump of dirt at the bottom of the track, spinning the No. 10 SHR Ford into the middle lane. Almirola’s racecar was struck by multiple cars, ending his day. In his second start at the Bristol dirt race last year, he ran inside the top 20 for the majority of the race and finished 23rd.
● A Little-Known Fact: Almirola started his racing career on dirt. He raced go-karts at Dirt Devil Speedway in Land O’Lakes, Florida, which was built and owned by his grandfather Sam Rodriguez, who was a well-known dirt Sprint car racer. Not only did Almirola start his racing career on dirt, he learned valuable lessons about how to operate a dirt track from age 11 to 18.
● Last weekend at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, Almirola raced as high as eighth after starting at the rear of the field. The Smithfield Ford driver was on pace for a top-10 finish until the final caution forced the team to use scuffed tires with 20 laps to go. He finished 13th.
● Almirola had a strong start in the first two outings of the season when he won his heat race and started on the pole during the non-points-paying Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Then, in the points-paying season opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the 39xt-year-old veteran won his Duel qualifying race and led 16 laps of the 500 – the most laps he’s led at Daytona in 23 starts.
● Driver Points: Almirola arrives at Bristol 27th in the driver standings, 169 points out of first.
● Almirola’s career: In 431 career NASCAR Cup Series starts, Almirola has three wins, 28 top-five finishes, 91 top-10s, three poles, and has led 1,007 laps.
● Fans will see the iconic white, black, and gold Smithfield Foods scheme adorn Almirola’s Ford Mustang this weekend. Smithfield has been a sponsor of Almirola’s for the entirety of his fulltime NASCAR Cup Series career – making it one of the longest-lasting partnerships in NASCAR. Smithfield is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. Its 63,000 team members are dedicated to producing “Good food. Responsibly.®” Smithfield is one of the world’s leading vertically integrated protein companies. The company has pioneered sustainability standards for more than two decades, including its industry-leading commitments to become carbon negative in U.S. company-owned operations and reduce GHG emissions 30 percent across its entire U.S. value chain by 2030. Smithfield believes in the power of protein to end food insecurity and has donated hundreds of millions of food servings to local communities.
● Beyond the 10 YouTube Series:In 2023, Almirola is continuing to share his life beyond the No. 10 Ford with season five of his award-winning YouTube series. Fans and media can subscribe on YouTube to see Almirola’s personality on and off the track. Episodes have already featured life as a dad, a husband and an athlete, and the show gives fans a unique perspective on what goes on in the life of a professional NASCAR driver. Fans can also follow Almirola’s social media channels: @Aric_Almirola on Twitter and Instagram, and @AricAlmirola on Facebook.
Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You called last weekend’s race at Richmond somewhat of a turning point for the No. 10 team. Why?
“We finished a race. We were handed another tough qualifying position all the way back in 32nd because of the rainout and we drove through the field to come home with a decent finish and no major issues. With about 30 laps to go, we were in 10th and our car was getting better and better on the long run. We were set up for a seventh- or even sixth-place finish with the No. 34 and No. 9 car on old tires and we were faster than a few more ahead. Unfortunately, that caution came out and we only had scuffs left. I’m just glad we held on for a 13th-place finish with how important tires are at Richmond. Finishing a clean race felt like a win to us right now, so I’m confident that this is a turning point for us.”
What do you think of racing on dirt at Bristol?
“I think it is a really unique race for the fans. I’m a much bigger fan of the original Bristol. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the circuit, so I really enjoyed racing on the concrete twice a year. I know the dirt guys really love it and I just didn’t grow up with a ton of dirt-racing experience. We’ll try to keep it clean and stay out of trouble this weekend in hopes to be up there at the end. This is a wild-card race, so anything can happen.”
Talk about your dirt racing background.
“Growing up, I went to the dirt track to watch my grandpa race dirt Sprint cars, so that’s all I knew – scraping mud off of racecars. When I was growing up, my grandfather was always making fun of people who raced on asphalt. He said asphalt was for ‘getting to the racetrack.’ Then when I started go-kart racing, all of the racing was on dirt. It was a very different discipline and so that’s what I learned from. My grandpa actually built his own dirt go-kart track, so when I was 11 all the way to 18 years old, I helped prepare the track every single weekend there was an event at his track. I was very familiar with watering, grading and prepping the track and everything that was needed to go into making a good surface for the weekend. I have a lot of memories from starting on dirt, but as I started to stock-car race, I transitioned to asphalt. My grandfather was a firm believer that if I was going to make it in NASCAR, I would need to become a great asphalt racer because he thought dirt racing would teach me bad habits. It’s been a long time since I’ve done much dirt racing. Before the first Bristol dirt race in 2021, I think the last time I raced dirt was the Prelude (to the Dream) that Tony Stewart hosted. I think I have eight total races in a racecar on dirt. I’ve had mild success at that.”