No. 10 Smithfield Ford Racing: Aric Almirola Sonoma Advance

Notes of Interest

 

●  Double Duty: Almirola will be doing double duty for the second time this season at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, driving in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race and Sunday’s Cup Series Save Mart 350k. His first double-duty weekend was in March at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. In Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, Almirola will be in the No. 28 Ford Mustang for RSS Racing. It will be Almirola’s first Xfinity Series start at Sonoma, but it won’t be his first double-duty weekend at the Northern California road course. In 2018, Almirola nearly pulled off the victory in the ARCA Menards Series race there, leading 23 laps and finishing second. Almirola finished eighth in the Cup Series race that weekend.

 

●  Statistically speaking, Sonoma is where Almirola has been most consistent among the road courses on the schedule. In 10 starts on the 1.99-mile, 10-turn circuit, he has two top-10 finishes, and he finished on the lead lap in all but one of those 10 starts. The 39-year-old earned his two top-10 finishes in his first two starts with Stewart-Haas Racing.

 

●  The No. 10 Smithfield Ford team’s season has been a rollercoaster ride. It got off to a strong start during the first two outings of the season. Almirola won his heat race and started on the pole for the non-points Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Then, in the points-paying season opener at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the 39-year-old veteran won his Duel qualifying race and led 16 laps of the Daytona 500 – the most laps he’s led at Daytona in 23 starts. Almirola and his team were mired by bad luck at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Phoenix Raceway and Richmond (Va.) Raceway in subsequent races, unable to capitalize on newfound top-10 and top-five speed. He then led the field for a combined 28 laps during what were promising days at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, but a late-race accident ended Almirola’s day at Atlanta and he posted a 22nd-place finish at Talladega. His best outing of the early season came April 16 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where he qualified third, ran up front all race long and earned a sixth-place finish and 42 points in the driver standings. Almirola and the No. 10 team continued to show improvement in their speed at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, and Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, but the finishes have not been indicative of the potential top-10 runs they have had. Last weekend at Gateway International Raceway, Almirola started 24th and finished 19th.

 

●  Driver Points: Almirola arrives at Sonoma 25th in the driver standings, 244 points out of first. 

 

●  Almirola’s career: In 439 career NASCAR Cup Series starts, Almirola has three wins, 28 top-five finishes, 92 top-10s, four poles, and has led 1,018 laps.

 

●  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:

 

Where do you think you and the team rank heading into a road course like Sonoma?

 

“I would say Sonoma is hands down my best road course and I feel like that’s because it’s not really one of those racetracks that you can attack because of the surface and the way the tires wear out. It’s more of a rhythm racetrack and it’s kind of flowy and you can’t really attack the racetrack or you’ll abuse your tires and really pay a huge penalty after five or six laps on tires. I do better at that. Even short-track racing like Richmond and Loudon, where you have to take care of your stuff, I tend to do much better at. The places where you have to be overly aggressive and really attack the racetrack and attack the braking zones are not my best places. So, at those racetracks that you really have to attack the braking zones and do all those things, I tend to not be as good at, and I feel like as an organization we have a lot of room for improvement to make our road-course stuff better. I think that we have been average at best as an organization with this NextGen car at most road courses, not all of them, but at most of them we have struggled to make our car get in the braking zones as hard as the competition. We’ve struggled to get the forward drive off of the corners to compete, so I think there are a lot of things that we can do better.”

 

Why did you decide to do double duty at Sonoma this year?
 

“Of all the road courses that we run, it’s my favorite. I run the best there, so having the opportunity to run an Xfinity car there, something that is new for that series, I just thought that it would be a great opportunity and something for me to go and do, and I think it is slightly helpful just to get some more reps at the road courses because, with only 20 minutes of practice, you don’t get a lot of laps in the Cup car. So just being able to pick up little things here and there on the racetrack maybe helps a little bit. But the cars are so different nowadays with the brakes, the way the cars drive, the transmission, all those things, that a lot of it doesn’t really correlate at all.”

 

Is there anything you noticed at Circuit of the Americas without cautions at the stage breaks and how it will be different this weekend?

 

“I think at COTA it made the strategy a little bit more straightforward, and now I think it’s going to be the same at Sonoma when you look at the race and the strategy play for Sonoma. It makes the race relatively straightforward with where you’re going to pit. There are a couple of windows here or there on what you’re going to do for strategy, so it really takes away, in my opinion, from the strategy aspect of it. Last year at Sonoma was a perfect example. We went there and we had a really good car, but we chose to score as many stage points as we could with the position that we were in in points going to Sonoma, and so we finished fifth in stage one and finished second in stage two because we elected to stay out on the racetrack and score stage points. After the stage breaks, we had to come back through the field on newer tires compared to the other guys that pitted a couple of laps before the end of the stage, so we constantly battled from poor track position driving through the field, and then staying out at the stages to score points – where now there’s not that opportunity so it doesn’t really jumble up or mix the field up as much. It’s more about qualifying well and then just making sure you pit when you’re supposed to pit.”

 

Which Sonoma layout do you like best?

 

“I love the chute. The carousel was cool to do once, just so I could say I had the experience to run it like they used to run it in the old days when Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace and those guys would duke it out there. I absolutely love the chute and I love that it gives you that opportunity to make some passes getting into turn seven if you get off of turn four well, and the carousel just never really presented that opportunity with the cars the way they are nowadays versus the old days. Our cars are so much more aero-sensitive, so going through the carousel was so tough to run behind somebody that you would give up too much of a gap off the carousel to whomever you were racing with that you didn’t really have that opportunity to make a pass into turn seven and out-brake them. Now with turn four, hopping that curb and going over the other side to the other curb, there’s a lot of opportunity to maintain your position relative to the car in front of you and then have an opportunity to out-brake them getting into turn seven, so I love the short chute.”

 

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