The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series head to Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International this weekend. In addition to his usual role behind the wheel of the No. 10 Go Bowling Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in Sunday’s Cup Series race, Almirola will also compete this weekend in the No. 98 Go Bowling Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race. It’s all in an effort to continue to hone his road-course-racing skills.
Watkins Glen is the second road course on the Cup Series schedule this season and it marks the first for the Xfinity Series. The 2.45-mile, seven-turn circuit is located in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York and is quite different from Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, the first road course stop each June. “Watkins Glen is a really fast racetrack,” Almirola said. “I would compare Sonoma to a Martinsville. It’s slow, technical, and wears the tires out really bad – bumping and banging, very physical. Watkins Glen to me is like racing at Dover. It’s still very technical, but incredibly fast. You’ve got to have a car that’s really stuck to the racetrack, has good downforce and is able to run up through the esses.”
While the road courses have been a challenge for Almirola over the years, he posted his best career Cup Series road-course finish of eighth at Sonoma this year in his No. 10 Ford Fusion.
Heading into this weekend, Almirola has made just one previous Xfinity Series start at Watkins Glen, in August 2011, when he started 17th and finished eighth.
The 34-year-old will make his eighth Cup Series start at The Glen this weekend, looking to improve on his best Watkins Glen finish of 16th. He’s completed 597 of the 630 possible laps at the facility, and hopes the extra seat time he’s getting in the No. 98 Xfinity Series entry will allow him improve his Cup Series performance this weekend.
This weekend at The Glen, professional bowler Jason Belmonte of Orange, Australia will be attendance. He’s also known for his bowling trick shots that can be seen here from Dude Perfect. Belmonte will be showcasing his skills on the two fully operational lanes Go Bowling has set up at The Glen for the fans during the weekend. Almirola will also display his bowling skills at the bowling lanes on Friday and Saturday.
Almirola and the No. 10 Go Bowling Ford Fusion also will give the fans a chance to get a little extra money for their bank account this weekend. If he wins at Sunday’s Go Bowling at The Glen, one lucky fan will win $10,000. If Almirola doesn’t win Sunday, one fan still has the chance to win $1,000. To enter the contest, visit GoBowling.com/10k.
Meanwhile, safe to say Almirola is having a career year in the Cup Series, and his confidence continues to grow as his on-track performance has improved. “It has given me a tremendous amount of confidence and belief in myself,” he said. “I have talked a lot this year, and especially the last couple of weeks, just about the last six years. I have always been unsure if it was the equipment, my team, or me. Do I just not stack up? Am I holding the team back? I think it’s natural as a human being to question everything, and particularly yourself. Having this opportunity to drive the best equipment in the garage at Stewart-Haas Racing and me being able to rise to the challenge, and go out there and run up front and lead laps and be competitive, it gives me a lot of confidence in myself and in my ability. It’s good to know that, given the right circumstances and the right opportunity, I can go and compete with the best.”
In 21 Cup Series starts this year, Almirola has accrued an average start of 19.7 and an average finish of 13.1, with one top-five finish and eight top-10s. He’s also led 113 laps this season, already a career best. Almirola rounds out the four-driver SHR contingent at 11th in the point standings.