Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will head just a few miles down the road from the race shop for the second consecutive weekend for Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Last weekend’s Monster Energy All-Star Race was a non-points event that paid $1 million to the winner, but it’s back to racing for points with this weekend’s 600-mile marathon.
“This weekend is always really special,” Almirola said. “Being able to race and pay tribute to the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for me to live in the greatest country in the world is really cool. I grew up in a military family. My dad was in the Air Force, so I know firsthand what the families have sacrificed. There are men and women who wake up every day and fight for our freedom and some of them lay down their lives for us. We get to do really cool things and I get to drive a racecar for a living without the worry of being attacked. We take it for granted that we live in a safe and free country.”
Once again joining the Memorial Day weekend tradition of honoring America’s fallen service members as part of the NASCAR Salutes initiative, the windshield header of each Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car will feature the name of a fallen service member. The No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang will feature United States Army Warrant Officer John Patrick Bartone. A native of Hampton, Virginia, Bartone was born on Nov. 21, 1949, and was part of the Battery A, 2nd Battalion (Airmobile), 20th Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division. He paid the ultimate sacrifice in South Vietnam when he laid down his life for his country’s freedom on July 15, 1970.
Bartone was selected to be on Almirola’s car because he is the uncle of No. 10 team engineer Mark Hendrickson’s wife. Ten of Bartone’s family members will be in attendance this weekend to watch Almirola attempt to drive a hero’s name to victory lane in the Coca-Cola 600. Almirola says it’s the least he could do in remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice Bartone made to give his countrymen and women the ability to live free in America today.
“Having Warrant Officer Bartone on the racecar, with his personal connection to someone on our team, means even more,” he said. “Hopefully, we can give him one hell of a ride and make his family proud.”
Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, which is based approximately five hours northeast of SHR headquarters in Smithfield, Virginia, will adorn Almirola’s Ford Mustang with America’s patriotic red, white and blue. Smithfield 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.
Almirola’s ability to excel on 1.5-mile ovals like Charlotte so far this season indicate a strong run anticipated for the No. 10 Smithfield Ford team. The No. 10 driver has earned a top-10 at three of the four 1.5-mile tracks he’s visited.
The 35-year-old has eight NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Charlotte and garnered one top-five finish, three top-10s and has completed 99.4 percent of all possible laps. He also has two starts in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Charlotte, which both resulted in top-10 finishes.
Almirola has one pole, a top-five finish, seven top-10s and has led 99 laps this season in his bid for the Cup Series championship.