Notes of Interest
● Doubleheader: This weekend at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, Almirola will compete in his second road-course doubleheader weekend as he’ll also run Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race in addition to his fulltime NASCAR Cup Series duties focusing on Sunday’s race. His last road-course doubleheader was at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International in 2018, his first year at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). He finished fifth in the Xfinity Series race and 22nd in the Cup Series race.
● Almirola’s best road-course outing in the Cup Series came at Sonoma Raceway in 2018, where he finished eighth. He made it back-to-back top-10 finishes at the track when he returned for a ninth-place result in 2019.
● The No. 10 Smithfield Ford driver finished 19th in last year’s race at COTA – up seven positions from 26th in his debut Cup Series start there in 2021.
● Overcoming adversity is a staple of Almirola’s career. While the start to the 2023 season has not been what the No. 10 Smithfield Ford team is capable of, due largely to bad luck and mechanical issues, Almirola has always seemed to find his way back on top. In 2021, the No. 10 team was in the same points position through the first four races as it is this year, but Almirola still made the playoffs for his fourth consecutive season at SHR. He is known to thrive as the underdog.
● In 2014, Almirola’s teammate Kevin Harvick experienced a similar start to Almirola’s start to this season. Harvick finished outside of the top-30 on four occasions over the first seven races of the season and was 26th in the standings. From there, he went on to win five races and claimed the 2014 Cup Series championship.
● Almirola’s 33 laps led this year marks his second-highest amount of laps led through the first five races of a NASCAR Cup Series season. He led 69 laps through the first five races in 2019.
● Last weekend at Atlanta: Almirola led a career-high 17 laps at the 1.54-mile oval. He and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford team elected to stay out on older tires in the final stage and controlled the race from the lead until a cut right-rear tire ultimately ended their day.
● Almirola had a strong start in the first two outings of the season by winning his heat race and starting on the pole during the non-points Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Then, in the points-paying season opener at Daytona, the 39-year-old veteran won his Duel qualifying race and led 16 laps at the Daytona 500 – the most laps he’s led at Daytona in 23 starts.
● Driver Points: Almirola arrives at COTA 27th in the driver standings, 114 points out of first.
● Almirola’s career: In 429 career NASCAR Cup Series starts, Almirola has three wins, 28 top-five finishes, 91 top-10s, three poles, and has led 1,007 laps.
● Fans will see the iconic white, black, and gold Smithfield Foods scheme adorn Almirola’s Ford Mustang this weekend. Smithfield has been a sponsor of Almirola’s for the entirety of his fulltime NASCAR Cup Series career – making it one of the longest-lasting partnerships in NASCAR. Smithfield is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. Its 63,000 team members are dedicated to producing “Good food. Responsibly.®” Smithfield is one of the world’s leading vertically integrated protein companies. The company has pioneered sustainability standards for more than two decades, including its industry-leading commitments to become carbon negative in U.S. company-owned operations and reduce GHG emissions 30 percent across its entire U.S. value chain by 2030. Smithfield believes in the power of protein to end food insecurity and has donated hundreds of millions of food servings to local communities.
● Beyond the 10 YouTube Series: In 2023, Almirola is continuing to share his life beyond the No. 10 Ford with season five 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 the show 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.
Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You’re doing the Xfinity Series and Cup Series doubleheader this weekend for the first time since 2018. What made you want to run both this weekend?
“I really want to hone in my road-course skills, and running the Xfinity race is the best way to do it. Every year, I put a huge emphasis on improving on the road courses. Road racing is not something I grew up doing. I grew up racing go-karts on dirt ovals, and then I went to stock car racing on asphalt ovals. I never did any road racing at all until I actually got to NASCAR. That was when I got introduced to road racing and I had a steep learning curve to catch up. I have really enjoyed honing my craft at road racing and trying to figure out how to get better. Entering the Xfinity race on Saturday will give me more experience for Sunday, and I want to give this No. 10 Smithfield team every bit of energy I have to perform. I’m also spending a ton of time on the Ford simulators and just doing all I can to give this team the best opportunity to succeed.”
Bad luck continues to strike, as it did again at Atlanta on Sunday. How do you overcome it?
“You don’t dwell on it and just keep pushing. I’ve seen plenty of teams win races and championships from worse positions than we're in now. It’s still early. The difference in this year and, say, 2021 or other years that seem to start this way, is that all of our cars have been fast enough to run top-10. The things we can control, we have controlled well, so we have a lot of confidence in that, honestly. We just have to shake the misfortunes and patiently wait for it to turn the corner. I feel even better this weekend about running the Xfinity race because it will give us even more laps and more confidence heading into Sunday.”
How much does road-course racing put what happens back in the driver’s hands?
“It puts a lot back into the driver’s hands, but you still have to have a good-handling car to compete up front, and strategy is going to play a huge role into the weekend now that the stage breaks have been eliminated. While a lot is in the driver’s hands, you still have to have everything go right in order to come out on top.”