Not all heroes wear capes. Some don firesuits and helmets behind the wheel of the fastest cars in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. This weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Aric Almirola will sport the No. 10 Shazam!/Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in superhero fashion.
Opening April 5 nationwide, Shazam! is a DC superhero movie from New Line and Warner Bros. about a streetwise 14-year-old who can magically transform into the adult superhero Shazam simply by shouting out one word. His newfound powers soon get put to the test when he squares off against the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana.
“It’s awesome we get to be superheroes this weekend at Martinsville,” Almirola said. “Growing up, my superhero was my grandfather. He raced Dirt Sprint cars a lot in the Southeast. He won a lot of races and track championships at Eastbay Raceway in Riverview, Florida, so growing up watching him race and me loving racing and seeing how successful he was with his career made him my hero. Like the movie, the 14-year-old me wanted to be just like him and here I am competing in the top series. This is my Shazam!”
While Almirola can’t shout the word “Shazam” to earn new powers, he’ll rely on the horsepower of Roush Yates Engines that has earned him four consecutive top-10 finishes, a top-five, a pole, 69 laps led, and the sixth spot in the point standings just five races into the season. His and the No. 10 team’s consistency has Almirola off to his best career start to a season through the first five events and has him and the No. 10 team positioned to be serious contenders in the championship hunt.
Last weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Almirola finished ninth to earn his first top-10 at the 2-mile oval, and he led laps – seven in all – for the first time ever at the California track.
In 20 career starts at Martinsville’s half-mile paperclip, the 35-year-old Almirola has three top-10 finishes, one top-five and has led 56 laps. His two Martinsville starts with SHR proved to be competitive, but he’s yet to crack the top-10 while the SHR organization has four victories, 10 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s and have led 720 laps in 62 starts there.
“Martinsville is a really challenging racetrack,” Almirola said. “It’s the smallest racetrack we go to on the circuit. One of the most challenging parts about Martinsville is that the tires wear out pretty rapidly and, when that happens, you really struggle to get the power down to the ground.”
This year, NASCAR mandated a new rules package allowing 750 horsepower at tracks 1 mile in length or shorter. Almirola, among other drivers, will be challenged with something new.
“We make about 750 horsepower now with this new rules package and we can spin the tires very easily when we push the gas pedal down,” he said. “To get the traction in the rear tires and to keep that as best as you can throughout the course of a run as the tires wear out is really challenging.”
As Almirola and the No. 10 Ford team head to the first short-track race of the season, they look to expand on their consistency by crossing the finish line yelling “Shazam” all the way to victory lane.