Aric Almirola and his Farmland Ford team look to continue their late-season surge as they head to the Phoenix desert this week. The No. 43 team earned its seventh top-15 finish of the season at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, marking a third straight week of solid performances on track.
Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) is a good place to continue the run. Almirola earned a 12th-place finish at the Avondale, Ariz., track earlier this season in just his second race in the No. 43 Ford. It's his best finish among his three Cup Series starts at PIR. He also started from the pole in one of his five Nationwide Series races at the one-mile oval.
Sunday's AdvoCare 500 marks the final of four races that the Farmland colors will adorn the No. 43 Ford Fusion this year. Fans that cannot make it to the track can still see the Farmland Ford throughout the race week, though. The No. 43 show car will be on display at Bashas' groceries around the Phoenix area.
Before strapping into his race car on Friday, Almirola will strap into an F-16 fighter jet on Thursday at Luke Air Force Base in nearby Glendale, Ariz. The U.S. Air Force, a No. 43 team sponsor, is giving Almirola the flight of a lifetime, courtesy of the 56th Fighter Wing. Almirola will go through flight training and be fitted for his own flight suit before climbing aboard the F-16 Fighting Falcon for an authentic training exercise.
Comments from Farmland Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:
"I really like racing at Phoenix. I've always run well there and seem to be able to get a lot of speed out the car there. Of course, it's a different track now with the recent reconfigurations than it was in the past. But we still ran well there in the spring, finishing 12th in what was just my second race with the team. So I definitely feel we can go back there and be fast, run up front and even have a shot at a win for Farmland. They've been such a great partner this year. I can't think of a better way to cap off their season than to bring them to Victory Lane.
"I'll be swapping my firesuit for a flight suit on Thursday. I'm really excited about it. The U.S. Air Force has been another great partner this year and they've invited me out to fly in an F-16. My dad was in the Air Force and I was born on an Air Force Base, so this has been a pretty natural partnership for me and it's been great. I'm looking forward to pulling those 'Gs' and maybe even breaking the sound barrier. I can't wait."
Comments from Crew Chief Todd Parrott on Phoenix:
"This should be another good weekend for us. We showed at Martinsville two weeks ago that we can be strong on the short track and be there at the end. And Aric ran well at Phoenix earlier this year also, so I look for that Farmland Fusion to be running up front again on Sunday. Now that we've been to the 'new' Phoenix a couple times, I think we've got a lot of things figured out and can go there with a lot of information in our pocket to help us qualify well and run well."