● Event: Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders (Round 28 of 36)
● Time/Date: 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Sept. 11
● Location: Richmond (Va.) Raceway
● Layout: .75-mile oval
● Laps/Miles: 400 laps/300 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 80 laps / Stage 2: 155 laps / Final Stage: 165 laps
● TV/Radio: NBCSN / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Notes of Interest
● This morning, Smithfield® and the Gene Haas Foundation had the honor of recognizing Tuesday’s Children, an organization formed in the wake of 9/11 that provides a lifetime of healing for families who have been affected by terrorism, military conflict or mass violence, with a $50,000 donation at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) headquarters in Kannapolis, North Carolina. In addition to the donation, driver Aric Almirola unveiled the special-edition No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang that he will pilot in Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. The Ford Mustang will feature a commemorative 9/11 paint scheme and the Tuesday’s Children logo to honor those whose lives were forever changed by the tragedy and further spotlight the non-profit’s mission. Since Tuesday’s Children was founded nearly two decades ago, it has served more than 42,000 individuals. The organization’s goal is to ensure that families who have suffered losses due to the events of 9/11, post-9/11 military service, or other acts of mass violence and terrorism always have a comforting place to turn to for support and community. This $50,000 donation will help provide individuals and families with counseling and support, youth mentorship and career guidance, healing through service and peacebuilding, and much more.
● History at Richmond: In 18 starts, Almirola has earned seven top-10 finishes, two top-fives, and has led one lap on the .75-mile Richmond oval. In his most recent start there, Almirola finished sixth, which was his third-best finish of the year behind Nashville Superspeedway, where he finished fourth, and his win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. His sixth-place finish in April earned him back-to-back top-10 finishes at Richmond.
● Almirola and the No. 10 Ford team are bringing the same car to Richmond that piloted the team to a victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on July 18. That win locked Almirola into the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. He led 46 laps around the flat, 1.058-mile oval en route to his third career NASCAR Cup Series win. After a year full of adversity and bad luck, the victory put the No. 10 team, which was 27th in the standings and facing a must-win situation if it was going to compete for this year’s championship, in prime position to earn one of the 16 coveted berths in the 10-race playoffs. Almirola’s award-winning YouTube series “Beyond the 10” captured his entire race day here.
● In his pursuit of his first Cup Series championship, Almirola looks to continue Tampa Bay’s recent sports successes by adding to the accomplishments of his hometown teams – back-to-back Stanley Cup championships won by the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning, last year’s World Series appearance by Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, and this year’s Super Bowl championship by the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
● Richmond is a hometown race for Smithfield Foods, whose headquarters are located just 80 miles southeast of the track. Smithfield celebrates 10 years of partnership with Almirola this season with a special campaign called Taste Victory. As one of the most active partners in NASCAR, Smithfield engages fans all year long by hosting a microsite that provides the opportunity to win when Almirola wins or finishes inside the top-10. When Almirola wins, one fan wins $10,000, and 10 fans win a gift card for each top-10 finish. The microsite also doubles as an Aric Almirola fan page and entertainment source where fans can get behind the wheel of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford with a custom racing game, and learn more about Almirola with fast facts, favorite recipes and custom content about his life on and off the track. Visit www.tastevictory.com to learn more. Thanks to Almirola’s Feb. 11 win in his Duel qualifying race for the Daytona 500 and his July 18 win at New Hampshire, two lucky fans have already won $10,000 each.
● Almirola’s 2020 season proved successful when he earned a career-high 18 top-10 finishes, six top-fives and led 305 laps. During the season, Almirola went on a five-race streak of top-five finishes and earned nine consecutive top-10s.
● Career Stats: Almirola has career totals of three wins, two poles, 26 top-five finishes, 82 top-10s and 893 laps led in 379 NASCAR Cup Series starts.
● Beyond the 10 YouTube Series:In 2021, Almirola continues to share his life beyond the No. 10 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’s latest Beyond the 10 episode addresses the question “are NASCAR drivers athletes” in honor of the Olympic break.
Playoff Standings (with two races to go before Round of 12):
- Denny Hamlin (2,072 points) 1 win
- Kyle Larson (2,106 points) +80 points
- Martin Truex Jr. (2,062 points) +36 points
- Kurt Busch (2,062 points) +26 points
- Ryan Blaney (2,048 points) +22 points
- Joey Logano (2,047 points) +21 points
- Kevin Harvick (2,046 points) +20 points
- Brad Keselowski (2,038 points) +12 points
- Christopher Bell (2,031 points) +6 points
- Chase Elliott (2,030 points) +4 points
- Aric Almirola (2,029 points) +3 points
- Alex Bowman (2,026 points) +0 points
- Tyler Reddick (2,026 points) -0 points
- Kyle Busch (2,024 points) -2 points
- William Byron (2,017 points) -9 points
- Michael McDowell (2,006 points) -20 points
Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield/Tuesday’s Children Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Earlier today, you had the honor of presenting matching $25,000 checks to Tuesday’s Children on behalf of Smithfield and the Gene Haas Foundation, as well as unveil a paint scheme paying tribute to the organization’s 20th anniversary. How was that?
“With Saturday’s race in Richmond taking place on the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, we wanted to pay tribute to those who were affected by the heinous acts of 9/11. Tuesday’s Children has done an incredible job serving as a strong support system for so many individuals and families throughout the last two decades, and I am privileged to be a part of this moment to spotlight their organization through this donation and paint scheme.”
What do you expect at Richmond?
“More of the same. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be intense. There’s going to be a lot of battling and I have no doubt that you will see a playoff car or a few run into some trouble. It just happens and you just don’t want to be that guy. We’ve been fortunate going to Richmond in year’s past, especially in the playoffs, where we’ve always had good cars. We’ve run in the top-five, scored a lot of stage points and had good finishes, so that’s been one of our best racetracks and we’re taking the same car we won with at Loudon, so hopefully we can produce a similar result.”
How much has changed since the first Richmond race this year?
“It’s hard to say because I feel like Richmond doesn’t change, but everybody always seems to find a way to get better, so you can’t rest on your laurels. If you were good at Richmond last time, you can’t automatically assume that you’re going to beat the competition. Everybody is always looking to find ways to make their cars better from the last race. And you just look at Darlington – I know the patch (of new pavement in turn two) was an added difference and something new about Darlington, but you go back and look at the spring race and look at the cars that ran well, and then you look at this race and there were some different cars running up front. I think the race teams, the organizations, everybody works hard to find more speed in our cars, more downforce, all those things, so that usually equates to stiffer competition in the playoffs, so everybody brings their A-game. I have no doubt that even though we’ve run well at Richmond and we ran well there in the spring, we’re still fine-tuning and tweaking on what we had there in the past to try and make it a race-winning car instead of a top-five car.”
What clicked for you so much earlier this year at Richmond when nothing else seemed to go right?
“I do feel like going to Richmond this time around I have so much confidence because I didn’t feel like our cars were where they needed to be earlier this year, and yet we still went to Richmond and ran in the top-10 and finished seventh. So, to go there and run like we did in the spring, where I felt like our cars were still off, especially the 750 (horsepower) stuff that we’ve made significant gains on, it gives me a lot of confidence knowing that we ran well there in the spring and that we’re going back with a lot better racecar and it’s a place that we just, for whatever reason, run better at. It doesn’t matter the team or the crew chief or whatever, I always show up to Richmond and tend to run well there – very similar to Loudon. I’m excited about it. It’s a great place for us. It’s Smithfield’s backyard, so it always feels good to go up there and run well, and then this weekend in particular we’re running a really cool, special paint scheme to honor and remember 20 years ago, 9/11, so I’m pretty excited about this weekend on all fronts.”
Is it better to go for the win in round one or survive? Is there a balance?
“That’s certainly a balance, but if you look historically over the last several years, the first round is definitely a round that you’ve got to survive. Winning obviously makes it way easier, but surviving is key because on any given year you look back and at least two or three cars end up taking themselves out just from one or two bad races, wrecks, blown engines, whatever it is So when you look at the first round, it’s about surviving, but you have to be aggressive. It’s such a balancing act between not making mistakes and don’t wreck, don’t take yourself out but, at the same time, you’ve got to race for every point. Every single stage point matters. Every single point in position on the racetrack at the end of the race matters, so it really is a tough challenge and a balancing act between being aggressive to go get the spots that you need to go get, and making sure that you don’t put yourself in a bad position to get tore up and have a DNF.”
What do you make of all the attrition at Darlington last Sunday, and how did your night go?
“I honestly can’t explain the amount of attrition between the playoff drivers, but it does seem to happen when we get to the playoffs. We see it time and time again where playoff drivers end up with bad races and find themselves in a hole. I guess it’s just the way it works and it creates a lot of excitement for TV and the sport in general, seeing guys trying to dig out of holes to make it to the next round of the playoffs. As far as our race goes, we overcame some adversity, for sure. We had some things not go our way, late-race cautions and a tire going down, and several different things just popping up and happening that we had to overcome. So, for us, getting out of there with a 16th-place finish and being three points above the cutline, while not ideal, especially with a car that was capable of running anywhere from seventh to 10th most of the night, we didn’t take ourselves out. We kept fighting, kept grinding away the whole night. It’s a long race. Five hundred miles at Darlington is a long race, but to get out of there with a decent night, scoring some stage points and finding ourselves leaving Darlington three points above the cutline is a good spot to be going to these next two weeks that are good tracks for us.”
Where were you on 9/11 and what do you remember from that day?
“I remember exactly where I was that day. I was a senior in high school and I was in drafting class. I was in an architectural engineering class and I was drawing on graph paper and I remember our teacher got a phone call or got notified, I don’t remember exactly how he got notified, but he got notified and he turned on the little tube TV that was mounted up on a wall bracket in the classroom and put the news on and we all put our pencils down and just sat there in shock. We couldn’t believe what we were witnessing. I remember it being very somber in the classroom and just a lot of emotion and everybody was very quiet and glued to the TV, trying to figure out what was going on. Shortly after that, we all got dismissed from school. If you drove to school, you could leave. Otherwise, you had to wait for the buses to come or for your parents to come pick you up. I was a senior in high school. I drove, so I was able to hop in my truck and drive home. I just remember getting home as fast as I could and turning the news back on.”
No. 10 Smithfield/Tuesday’s Children Ford Team Roster
Primary Team Members
Driver: Aric Almirola
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Crew Chief: Mike Bugarewicz
Hometown: Lehighton, Pennsylvania
Car Chief: Jerry Cook
Hometown: Toledo, Ohio
Engineer: Lee Deese
Hometown: Rockingham, North Carolina
Engineer: James Kimbrough
Hometown: Pensacola, Florida
Spotter: Joel Edmonds
Hometown: Dobson, North Carolina
Front Tire Changer: Ryan Mulder
Hometown: Sioux Center, Iowa
Rear Tire Changer: Michael Johnson
Hometown: Andover, New York
Tire Carrier: Tyler Bullard
Hometown: King, North Carolina
Jack Man: Sean Cotton
Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina
Fuel Man: James “Ace” Keener
Hometown: Fortuna, California
Road Crew Members
Mechanic: Tony Silvestri
Hometown: Sylvania, Ohio
Mechanic: Robbie Fairweather
Hometown: Westbrookville, New York
Engine Tuner: Matt Moeller
Hometown: Monroe, New York
Tire Specialist: Russel Simpson
Hometown: Medford, New York
Transporter Co-Driver: Dale Lackey
Hometown: Taylorsville, North Carolina
Transporter Co-Driver: Wayne Smith
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!