Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Smithfield Ford team head to Richmond (Va.) International Raceway this week ready to get back to the short track. The team has three top-15 finishes at tracks of one-mile or shorter in 2012 and is eager to put on a strong performance once again at the ¾-mile oval.
Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 will mark the return of the blue and black paint scheme of Smithfield Foods, whose Smithfield, Va., headquarters are just a 90-minute drive from Richmond. Almirola and the team will welcome guests from their primary sponsor for the always action-packed night race, which will be the final race for Sprint Cup Series drivers to qualify for the "Chase," the series' playoffs.
Almirola has just one Sprint Cup start under his belt at Richmond - a 26th-place finish earlier this season. But he's turned plenty of laps on the D-shaped oval, with five Nationwide Series starts to his credit. In those five races, he earned one top-10 and three top-15 finishes.
Comments from Smithfield Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:
"Smithfield has been such a great partner to our race team this year. It will be nice to go to their home track and hang out with them as a race 'family.' They've done a lot of great things with us this year and for me personally so we're going to work hard to put a strong Smithfield Ford on the track Saturday night.
"Richmond is a fun track. It's faster than most short tracks, so it's not quite the same style of racing as a Bristol or a Martinsville. And we had a fast car when we were there in April. We qualified 11th and ran in the top 10 and top 15, and then a late pit stop kind of shuffled us toward the back. I think we can definitely go back there and run up front again."
Comments from Crew Chief Mike Ford on Richmond:
"Richmond is different from other tracks in that it combines high speeds with what people typically think of with short-track racing. So you've got to have good aero and horsepower, but you've also got to make sure your car can get through those turns well and have good drive off the corners.
"Aric has experience at Richmond, but only one race in a Cup car and that was earlier this season. We're going back with that same car, which he qualified pretty well and had decent speed in. I wasn't with the team for that race, but we have a lot of good notes to work off of. We'll look to unload in pretty good shape and get it ready to qualify Friday and race Saturday."