Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) heads to Richmond (Va.) Raceway this weekend for the first Saturday night race of the season. The Tampa native looks to build upon his season-best finish of sixth during Monday’s weather-delayed race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Under the guidance of first-year crew chief Johnny Klausmeier, Almirola was the top SHR Ford Fusion driver at Bristol – three of whom finished in the top-10. Not only was it a big weekend on the track for Klausmeier, it was just as busy off of the track for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County graduate with the birth of his second child, a daughter named Olivia.
Almirola looks to replicate his solid finish from Bristol at the Richmond oval this weekend. Despite his sixth-place finish at Bristol, he was happy to be disappointed with the result. “I’m a little disappointed with sixth but, at the same time, I’m happy and pleased that we rebounded after a bad day in Texas,” the Smithfield driver said. With the exception of an accident at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth that left him with a 32nd-place result, Almirola hasn’t finished outside the top-14 this season. Even though Almirola had a solid result at Bristol, it didn’t come easily, evidenced by Almirola earning the Mobil 1 Performance Award after completing 81 passes throughout the 500-lap event. It was the second time Almirola has received the award this season. He was also the second-highest-finishing Ford Fusion in the 500-lap race at Bristol.
The Richmond facility, which is undergoing an infield renovation, typically puts on one of the best shows in the sport and is the second consecutive short track of the season. In 12 starts at the .75-mile oval, Almirola has captured one top-five finish and four top-10s. He has an average Richmond finish of 16.2 with 99.9 percent of laps completed, and he earned a ninth-place result in this race last year.
Almirola has six Richmond starts in the Xfinity Series and has scored one top-10 finish along with 10 laps led, and an average finish of 16.2. Richmond is the first track this season where Almirola hasn’t made a Camping World Truck Series start.
Earlier this week, Ford announced it will transition from the Fusion to the Mustang for the 2019 Cup Series season. “When you think about muscle cars and going fast, especially when it comes to the blue oval, you think of the Ford Mustang,” Almirola said. “I think it’s going to be really cool to get the Mustang out on the track in the Cup Series. It already runs in the Xfinity Series and they’ve had a lot of success with it in that series, so I’m excited about getting the Mustang on the track in our series and I can’t wait to take it to victory lane.” Ford leads all manufacturers in the series with four wins so far this season, and has 32 all-time series wins at Richmond.
Richmond marks the eighth weekend that the Smithfield livery has adorned Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion. Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, which is based approximately five hours northeast of SHR headquarters in Smithfield, Virginia, is in its seventh season with Almirola and its first with SHR. The No. 10 team partner’s headquarters is located approximately 80 miles southeast of Richmond Raceway. Founded in 1936, Smithfield is a leading provider of high-quality pork products, with a vast product portfolio including smoked meats, hams, bacon, sausage, ribs, and a wide variety of fresh pork cuts.
Saturday, Almirola will join Smithfield at Richmond’s infield track takeover area prior to the race. The event begins at 3 p.m. EDT with Almirola helping Smithfield make a protein donation to FeedMore Food Bank of Richmond on behalf of Kroger as part of the company’s 2018 Helping Hungry Homes® hunger-relief tour. The event is open to the media and will conclude at approximately at 3:30 p.m.