This past weekend in Las Vegas didn't have the ending that Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Smithfield Ford team wanted. The 24th-place finish didn't reflect the speed that the Ford Fusion had, but the team isn't letting that get them down heading to Phoenix International Raceway. The one-mile track will be the second stop on NASAR's annual West Coast Swing. The track is a driver and fan favorite with the close-racing action. The racing in the desert is always competitive, and the No. 43 team is confident going into the weekend with the new low downforce package. Currently sitting 15th in championship point standings, the team is looking to climb back up into the Top-10.
With 10 starts in the Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix International Raceway, Almirola has a best finish of 10th from the November race last season. He has run consistently well at the desert track, having recorded Top-20 finishes in his last eight races there. Almirola's best starting position was fifth in the 2012 fall race.
Kids age 12 and under will have the opportunity to meet Almirola on Friday afternoon during NASCAR's Youth Autograph Session. Almirola will be signing autographs for his youngest fans inside of Gate 4 in the Fan Midway from 2:30-3:00 p.m. Wristbands will be handed out first-come, first-serve for the session beginning at 1:45 p.m.
When: Friday, March 11 from 2:30-3:00 p.m.
Where: Fan Midway, Inside of Gate 4 (Behind Turn 1)
Fans will be able to see Almirola and "The King" Richard Petty when they judge the Whole Hog Challenge on Sunday morning at the Smithfield display in the Fan Midway. Pre-selected contestants will compete to eat eight Smithfield ribs the fastest. The competition will begin at 9:45 a.m. This will be the fourth qualifying competition of the season. At the end of the racing season, all of the qualifying competition winners will gather in Miami for the final event where the 2016 Whole Hog Challenge Champion will be crowned.
When: Sunday, March 13 at 9:45 a.m.
Where: Smithfield Display in the Fan Midway at Phoenix International Raceway
Fans can get in the car with Almirola by listening to his radio feed during the Phoenix 500 race on SiriusXM Radio Channel 134.
"I'm excited about being able to go to Phoenix International Raceway and race more side-by-side and be able to pass cars. The track was repaved a few years back, and it's finally starting to age some and turn into its old self. When cars are slipping and sliding around and you've got cars coming and going, it promotes much better racing. And, I'm looking forward to going to Phoenix with this low downforce package. Hopefully Goodyear has developed a good tire for this track just like they have for Atlanta and Las Vegas and we'll see great results. We'll definitely be on edge during the race with the new package and the slick track, but that's what makes it exciting."