Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) make their way to the Midwest for this Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
Almirola heads to Kansas looking for redemption after he was involved in an accident in the May 2017 race there that caused him to sit out the next seven Cup Series races with an injury. The 35-year-old is more focused than ever as the injury spurred Almirola to work harder on his physical fitness, which he’s maintained through this season. He is often seen cycling on the race weekends and working out every week at SHR’s gym.
“After I broke my back, I started to take exercise – specifically range of motion and mobility – more seriously,” he said. “It taught me a lot about myself and brought me to a new level of physical fitness. I used to just go in the gym and lift whatever I felt like, but now I understand the importance of preventing injuries and recovering to be in peak condition.”
Kansas City is an important market for Smithfield, whose Fresh division is based approximately 20 miles from the racetrack. Fittingly, Almirola’s diet consists of Smithfield’s premium line of all-natural fresh pork, which is packed with protein to keep him in the best physical condition possible for race weekends, including Saturday night’s Ally Digital 400 at Kansas.
The Tampa native has 14 career starts at Kansas and has earned six top-10 finishes there, including the last two in a row. Additionally, he’s led 69 laps at the 1.5-mile oval – the second-most laps he’s led at a single venue. Almirola finished ninth in his last start at Kansas. He also has three starts there in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with a best finish of 12th in October 2011, and two starts in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, with a best finish of seventh in May 2010. SHR has three wins at Kansas – Tony Stewart in October 2009 and Kevin Harvick in October 2016 and May 2018 – to go with 11 top-fives and 21 top-10s in 58 starts.
In Almirola’s three starts on 1.5-mile tracks this season, he has earned one pole and three top-10s with 39 laps led.
“I feel really good about heading to Kansas this weekend and getting back to the 1.5-mile tracks,” he said. “We have had some bad luck and have made a few mistakes at the short tracks, so I’m ready to get to a track that we know we have to be good at because those are the tracks that make up the majority of the season.”
Kansas marks the ninth weekend 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 eighth season with Almirola and its second 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 seven Cup Series wins at Kansas. SHR’s Harvick is the defending event winner at the 1.5-mile oval.
Almirola heads to Kansas 11th in the driver standings with 309 points – 151 behind the leader and 10 behind teammate Clint Bowyer for 10th place. He'll look to close the points gap this weekend by aiming toward his season-best points position of fifth.