Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) continue the current 10-race stretch of the season this weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Talladega marks the second restrictor-plate track of the season, and Almirola’s third restrictor-plate race of the year after he competed in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway to open the season.
Almirola heads to Talladega after finishing 17th in the Smithfield Ford Fusion last Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. The 34-year-old ran as high as second before several late-race cautions caused the field, including Almirola, to get shuffled around.
The Smithfield driver had a busy week leading into Talladega with a Goodyear tire test Tuesday at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, as well as a comprehensive satellite media tour Wednesday with Smithfield and five-time world-champion barbecue pitmaster Tuffy Stone to kick off the summer grilling season. Almirola and Stone launched Smithfield’s “Hero of the Grill” campaign in which fans are encouraged to nominate their favorite grill hero by visiting SmithfieldGetGrilling.com. One “Hero of the Grill” nominee will win $5,000. Plus, the first 10,000 nominees will have the chance to see their name featured on Almirola’s No. 10 Smithfield Ford at Richmond (Va.) Raceway in September.
Talladega marks the ninth weekend 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. 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.
Once Almirola arrives at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway oval, he’ll be focused on one thing – winning. After a heartbreaking finish on the last lap of this season’s Daytona 500, Almirola is looking for redemption. The superspeedways have generally been kind to the native of Tampa, Florida. However, Talladega hasn’t been so generous to SHR. The championship-winning organization is still looking to capture its first win at the track. Talladega is one of only two tracks, with Kentucky Speedway in Sparta being the other, where the Kannapolis, North Carolina-based team is still looking for its first win as an organization.
In Almirola’s 17 Talladega starts, he’s collected two top-five finishes and four top-10s. He’s put together a string of strong results in his last three starts there with finishes of eighth, fourth and fifth, respectively. Additionally, he earned the pole position for the October 2013 race and has led 15 laps.
Almirola has completed five Xfinity Series starts at the Alabama track. His most recent – in May 2017 – resulted in a trip to victory lane while driving the No. 98 Ford Mustang owned by Fred Biagi and Bill DenBeste. Almirola has been successful in his Xfinity starts at Talladega with only one finish outside of the top-10, and he’s completed every lap. Almirola has also accrued four Camping World Truck Series starts with a pair of runner-up finishes – in October 2009 and 2010.
Talladega has been strong for the Ford family of drivers with 26 all-time Cup Series wins at the superspeedway. The manufacturer has also captured eight of the last 11 victories at Talladega. The blue oval has dominated superspeedway races at both Talladega and Daytona with 16 victories in the last 29 events at both venues combined. Ford also swept all four superspeedway races last year and just missed capturing the victory in this year’s Daytona 500 by half a lap after Almirola was powering his way to the start-finish line on the final lap when contact from behind by another competitor resulted in an 11th-place finish.