Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
● Event: Bass Pro Shops Night Race (Round 29 of 36)
● Time/Date: 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Sept. 18
● Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
● Layout: .533-mile oval
● Laps/Miles: 500 laps/266.5 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 125 laps / Stage 2: 125 laps / Final Stage: 250 laps
● TV/Radio: NBCSN / PRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Notes of Interest
● Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway is the cutoff race in the first round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Almirola currently sits 11th with three points ahead of the cutoff line to advance to the Round of 12. The Smithfield driver was in a similar position heading into last year’s playoff cutoff race at Bristol – 10th place, seven points ahead of the cutoff line.
● Almirola is no stranger to pressure when it comes to the cutoff line. In 2018, he advanced to the Round of 12 by one point at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway “Roval” road course. He advanced to the Round of 8 with his win at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and he went on to finish fifth in the final standings.
● Last weekend at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, Almirola and the Smithfield Ford team ran inside the top-10 with a promising run until a loose wheel derailed their night, ultimately putting them a lap down and finishing 14th.
● History at Bristol: Almirola’s most recent visit to Bristol resulted in a fifth-place finish. In 20 starts at Bristol since 2007, Almirola has two top-fives and four top-10s. His best finish there was third in the Food City 500 on March 16, 2004. In addition to his Cup Series experience at Bristol, Almirola has seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts with four resulting in top-10 finishes.
● Almirola locked himself into the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with his July 18 victory at New Hampshire. He led 46 laps around the flat, 1.058-mile oval en route to his third career NASCAR Cup Series win. After a year full of adversity and bad luck, the victory put the No. 10 team, which was 27th in the standings and facing a must-win situation if it was going to compete for this year’s championship, in prime position to earn one of the 16 coveted berths in the 10-race playoffs. Almirola’s award-winning YouTube series “Beyond the 10” captured his entire race day here.
● In his pursuit of his first Cup Series championship, Almirola looks to continue Tampa Bay’s recent sports successes by adding to the accomplishments of his hometown teams – back-to-back Stanley Cup championships won by the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning, last year’s World Series appearance by Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, and this year’s Super Bowl championship by the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
● Smithfield celebrates 10 years of partnership with Almirolathis season with a special campaign called Taste Victory. As one of the most active partners in NASCAR, Smithfield engages fans all year long by hosting a microsite that provides the opportunity to win when Almirola wins or finishes inside the top-10. When Almirola wins, one fan wins $10,000, and 10 fans win a gift card for each top-10 finish. The microsite also doubles as an Aric Almirola fan page and entertainment source where fans can get behind the wheel of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford with a custom racing game, and learn more about Almirola with fast facts, favorite recipes and custom content about his life on and off the track. Visit www.tastevictory.com to learn more. Thanks to Almirola’s Feb. 11 win in his Duel qualifying race for the Daytona 500 and his July 18 win at New Hampshire, two lucky fans have already won $10,000 each.
● Almirola’s 2020 season proved successful when he earned a career-high 18 top-10 finishes, six top-fives and led 305 laps. During the season, Almirola went on a five-race streak of top-five finishes and earned nine consecutive top-10s.
● Career Stats: Almirola has career totals of three wins, two poles, 26 top-five finishes, 82 top-10s and 893 laps led in 380 NASCAR Cup Series starts.
● Beyond the 10 YouTube Series: In 2021, Almirola continues to share his life beyond the No. 10 Ford with season three 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 it 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. Almirola’s latest Beyond the 10 episode addresses the question “are NASCAR drivers athletes” in honor of the Olympic break.
Playoff Standings (with one race to go before Round of 12):
1. Denny Hamlin (2,127 points) 1 win
2. Martin Truex Jr. (2,113 points) 1 win
3. Kyle Larson (2,151 points) +88 points
4. Joey Logano (2,093 points) +40 points
5. Ryan Blaney (2,081 points) +28 points
6. Kevin Harvick (2,078 points) +25 points
7. Chase Elliott (2,072 points) +19 points
8. Christopher Bell (2,070 points) +17 points
9. Brad Keselowski (2,066 points) +13 points
10. Kyle Busch (2,061 points) +8 points
11. Aric Almirola (2,056 points) +3 points
12. Kurt Busch (2,053 points) +0 points
13. Alex Bowman (2,053 points) -0 points
14. Tyler Reddick (2,048 points) -5 points
15. William Byron (2,035 points) -18 points
16. Michael McDowell (2,015 points) -38 points
Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How did you feel about Richmond and how does it change your outlook on Bristol?
“We didn’t have a race-winning car, but I thought we could have run fifth to eighth, so I was a little frustrated. But it’s a team sport and we’ll go to Bristol and keep fighting. I think we’re competitive. We’re in the hunt. We had a loose lugnut and I had to pit again under green, and that got us behind. We finished 14th instead of sixth or seventh, which is about where we were running, so frustrating that we gave up those points. In this situation, we can’t really give up any points. It would have been a lot nicer to go to Bristol plus 12 (points) instead of plus three, but it is what it is. It’s no big deal. We’ve got to put our head down and go race. It’s the same situation. We’ve just got to go racing and score as many points as we can.”
Do you think the driving will be more aggressive this weekend with the points situation so close?
“The playoffs always bring out the best in us. The intensity level ratchets way up and every spot matters, every point matters during the stages and every finishing position matters, so I don’t think it can get any more aggressive. It’s already really aggressive and it will continue to be that way. We were in a similar position last year ahead of the cutoff line and we just didn’t execute in the first stage enough to get us points, so we have to get those points early. But you see what happened at Darlington with cars and equipment taking them out of the race. You have to be there at the end, too, so there is a fine balance.”
Is it a new mindset when you return to Bristol’s concrete surface after racing on the dirt?
“Bristol on dirt does not correlate at all to Bristol’s typical concrete self. One thing that I am interested in is the fact that they completely had to wash the racetrack and I believe, or I’ve heard, they had to spray a solution on there to get all of the clay and stuff off and pressure wash the racetrack, so it’ll be interesting to see how different the track is just without the rubber that’s laid down in the pores of the concrete and if that changes anything – then how they apply the PJ1 to the bottom groove. That’s always a moving target for us on whether they apply it in a small strip or if they widen it out and make it to where it’s a whole car width wide. It’s always changing the dynamic of how the cars run around the racetrack.”