champion. As a result, Almirola traces his racing success to Rodriguez and became passionate about motorsports while sitting in the grandstands and watching his hero cross the finish line first, then running across the track to get his picture taken with him in victory lane. Almirola says his grandfather instilled a hard work ethic in him at a young age that ultimately propelled him into NASCAR’s top series. In Almirola’s final fulltime NASCAR Cup Series season, he will bring it all full circle at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway this weekend with a special throwback paint scheme honoring the iconic Dirt Sprint Car of his hero “Slammin’ Sammy.” And how better to bring it all full circle than to recreate the images of Almirola and Rodriguez in victory lane with that same paint scheme Sunday at Darlington – this time letting Rodriguez hold the flag.
● From 1984 to 1994, Rodriguez captured 90 wins, fourth-best in all-time Sprint Car victories in Florida. Rodriguez enjoyed a breakout season in 1990, when he made his way to victory lane on 15 separate occasions before earning his first of three TBARA championships. In addition to his successful racing career, Rodriguez built and operated Dirt Devil Speedway, a 1/5-mile clay oval located in Land O’ Lakes Florida that still operates today under new management. Shortly after he retired, Rodriguez purchased Almirola his first go-kart and insisted that, in order to become a good racer, the 8-year-old Almirola would have to work on the kart himself. From there, Rodriguez shifted from hero to mentor and helped Almirola climb the ranks through local racing series.
● During a 2019 NBC Sports production shoot interview with Dale Jarrett, Almirola was surprised by Rodriguez while he was explaining that his grandfather was his racing hero. Watch here.
● In 2021, Almirola and Rodriguez ventured to their old stomping grounds of Dirt Devil Speedway with FS1. Watch here.
● This weekend at Darlington marks Almirola’s 400th career Cup Series start.
● Points: Almirola arrives at Dover 11th in the driver standings with 283 points, 135 out of first.
● History at Darlington: In 13 starts at the 1.33-mile egg-shaped oval, Almirola has earned two top-10 finishes, which came in back-to-back starts in 2020.
● Almirola’s career: In 399 NASCAR Cup Series starts, Almirola has earned three wins, 27 top-five finishes, 88 top-10s, three poles, and has led 899 laps.
● One More Time: On Jan. 10, Almirola released a video on his YouTube channel announcing his retirement from fulltime NASCAR Cup Series racing after the 2022 season to spend more time with his family. His opening remarks were attributed to his grandfather’s mentorship. This year marks Almirola’s 11th fulltime Cup Series season. The official press release can be viewed here.
● Beyond the 10 YouTube Series: In 2022, Almirola is once again sharing his life beyond the No. 10 Smithfield Ford with season three of his award-winning YouTube series. Fans and media can subscribe on YouTube to see Almirola’s personality on and off the track. Episodes have already featured life as a dad, a husband and an athlete, and it gives fans a unique perspective on what goes on in the life of a professional NASCAR driver. Fans can also follow Almirola’s social media channels: @Aric_Almirola on Twitter and Instagram, and @AricAlmirola on Facebook.
● Almirola was the only NASCAR Cup Series driver to finish in the top-10 in this year’s opening three races. He finished fifth in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, sixth at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and sixth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Almirola’s top-10 streak ended with a 12th-place finish at Phoenix Raceway despite running inside the top-10 throughout the race.
● Smithfield Foods, Inc., headquartered in Smithfield, Virginia, since 1936, is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. Its 63,000 team members are dedicated to producing “Good food. Responsibly.®” Smithfield is one of the world’s leading vertically integrated protein companies. The company has pioneered sustainability standards for more than two decades, including its industry-leading commitments to become carbon negative in U.S. company-owned operations and reduce GHG emissions 30 percent across its entire U.S. value chain by 2030. Smithfield believes in the power of protein to end food insecurity and has donated hundreds of millions of food servings to local communities. Smithfield boasts a portfolio of high-quality iconic brands, such as Smithfield®, Eckrich® and Nathan’s Famous®, among many others. For more information, visit www.SmithfieldFoods.com, and connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
● Haas Automation founded by Gene Haas in 1983, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.