● Dirt Racing History: Almirola had seven starts starting in 2006 in the Prelude to the Dream charity event that Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart hosted from 2005 to 2012 at his Eldora Speedway half-mile dirt oval in Rossburg, Ohio. Almirola scored a best finish of third and earned four top-10 finishes in those six outings. Almirola also won an exhibition race at the short track in Talladega, Alabama.
● 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 sprint dirt 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.
● Almirola has prepped for the Bristol Dirt race by testing various local dirt tracks in a dirt late model and IMCA modified.
● Career Stats: Almirola has career totals of two wins, two poles, 24 top-five finishes, 79 top-10s and 842 laps led in 358 NASCAR Cup Series starts.
● Almirola will participate in the iRacing Pro Invitational Series virtual event on the Bristol dirt oval at 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday. It will be broadcast live on FS1.
● Smithfield Foods celebrates 10 years of partnership with Almirola this season with a special campaign called Taste Victory. As one of the most active partners in NASCAR, Smithfield plans to engage 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 the Duel qualifying race for the Daytona 500, one lucky fan has already won $10,000.
● Beyond the 10 YouTube Series:In 2021, Almirola continues to share his life beyond the No. 10 Smithfield 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.
● The Smithfield Ford team sits 26th in the championship standings with 87 points, 190 behind leader Denny Hamlin.
● Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz is in his sixth full-time season at SHR and his second with Almirola. To learn more, click here.
Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
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 ‘gettin’ 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. 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. I have confidence and I feel really good about going back to my roots.”
How has it been testing local short tracks to get a feel for what this weekend will be like?
“Since I haven’t been on a dirt track in quite a while, we decided it would be best to get some reps on a dirt track. We went to a couple different dirt tracks in a full-blown IMCA modified, and the biggest thing was making sure the tracks dry slicked like we expect the surface to be at Bristol. We expect our cars to have way more horsepower than we can hook up, so we tried to manipulate a stock car the best way we could, but still at the end of the day you’re in a light stock car and it’s not going to be the same. I think that’s across the board. Everyone kind of feels that way. Just because you have experience on dirt doesn’t mean you’re going to be good this weekend. I think we all agree that these Cup cars aren’t going to drive anything like that. We went mostly to get experience on the dirt and be comfortable with sliding around, working on throttle control, and all of the things you need to be successful on dirt. All of the dust and dirt flying around, we don’t have that asphalt racing, so just going through all of the little nuances to try to be prepared the best you can even though you can’t test exactly how that will be at Bristol.”
What do they mean when they compare racing on Bristol dirt to driving at a place like Martinsville or Richmond?
“What I’ve heard from a lot of people is it’s not like typical dirt-car racing. You don’t have the car really hung out sideways, standing in the gas and just slinging mud. The cars drive a lot straighter on the dirt. These big heavy stock cars do. They’re not running super sideways. You’re not driving them like you would a typical dirt car, so I think that’s what everybody has really referenced, that the cars are not way up on the left side and dug in with the right side tires. There are just a lot of differences in the way the dirt cars drive and the way they race versus how I’m expecting it from what I hear and what I gather our Cup cars to drive on dirt.”