Ford Performance NASCAR: Aric Almirola Talladega Media Availability

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) Advance (Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, AL.)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

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Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion, visited the Talladega infield media center before today’s practice session to discuss his status in the Playoff standings and tomorrow’s race.


ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion – DO YOU STILL FEEL LIKE THIS SECOND ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS FROM A TRACK PERSPECTIVE IS REALLY GOOD FOR YOU?  “Yeah, I do.  These tracks just for whatever reason throughout my career have been really good to me, whether it was Playoff time of year or not.  Dover has always been a track that I’ve run well at and had a lot of confidence going to, and even with the cars that I’ve had for the past six years, so I knew that getting in the equipment at Stewart-Haas Racing that Dover would be a good place for me and I feel like we showed that last weekend and unfortunately didn’t seal the deal and go to Victory Lane, which I felt like we should have, but Talladega has also been a good place for me.  I know there is a lot of unpredictability here at Talladega, but for the most part when you go back and look at my career and you look at Talladega if I wasn’t involved in a big wreck and I actually finished the race, usually the result was pretty good, so I feel like this could be a good weekend for us.”




KASEY KAHNE ANNOUNCED HE’S RETIRING BECAUSE THEY CAN’T SOLVE HIS DEHYDRATION ISSUES.  IS THAT A CONCERN FOR YOU?  “Not really.  I feel like everybody has different things that are specific to that individual.  You’ve seen race car drivers that have major back problems and then other guys race their whole career and never have any issues.  You see guys that have issues like Kasey’s had or you see guys that end up with concussion issues and other guys don’t.  I feel like it’s very specific to the individual and I wish Kasey nothing but the best and hope that they do figure out what is the situation, but, for me, all I can go on is a personal basis for myself and I feel like I’m in great shape. I do a lot to stay physically fit.  I’m pretty in tune with what I need for hydration.  Over the last probably 10 years of my career I’ve worked with different sports nutritionists and physical conditioning coaches and cycling coaches and a lot of different people that have a lot of knowledge about the human body and how to make it perform at its best.  I’ve gained a lot of knowledge from all those people that I’ve worked with and all I can say is that I put that to the best use for myself and it works for me, what I do, and that’s very specific.  I know a lot of other people it the cycling world or that run marathons and stuff and everybody does something a little bit different specific for them, but, for me, I’ve honed in on what works for me and I can get out of the race car and I feel like I can run another 500 miles.  I feel great.  I don’t ever feel really wiped out after a race, unless it’s extremely, extremely hot.  I’ll feel a little bit of the effects from that, but on a normal, every day weekend, I don’t think it’s a major issue for me.”




HOW DO YOU BEAT TEAM PENSKE HERE?  “I think you said it first is it’s about team.  You see those cars always run up front and Joey and Brad are very good at it, but you see all their cars run up front.  It’s not just Joey and Brad.  It is about the team and the cars because you look at Paul Menard at the spring race here and was really, really fast.  He led a lot of laps, won stage two, so when you look at those Penske cars, they’re just fast when you come to restrictor plates.  They’ve got something figured out which makes them really good and then obviously Joey and Brad execute on the race track to put themselves in position to win, but I think it’ll be about teamwork and the one good thing that we have going for us at Stewart-Haas Racing is we have the same horsepower.  When you come to restrictor plate races you feel like you have a leg up on the competition when you have Doug Yates engines in your race car.  That makes a big difference.  They put a lot of effort into every engine that goes into our race cars, but I know Doug loves restrictor plate racing because he’s won a lot of races and got a lot of checkered flags from a lot of restrictor plate tracks, so that’s one thing we have going in our favor and then the rest is really how we execute the weekend and what we do with the race cars getting ready for the race and how our pit strategy is and how we call the race, and then we’ll just have to see.  In the past at most of these restrictor plate races for the last several years the Fords have done a really good job of working together.  All of those Blue Ovals seem to work together, help each other out, line up, pit together, do all those things, so we’ll see.  Hopefully, a Blue Oval will make it to Victory Lane and hopefully it will be our Smithfield one.  Somebody is gonna win bacon for life.  That’s our promotion this weekend.  We’ve got a pretty cool paint scheme this weekend.  It’s the Bacon for Life Smithfield Ford Fusion, promoting what we have going on with the Bacon for Life promotion.  If you go to your local grocery store and pick up a package of Smithfield bacon that has the Bacon for Life symbol on it, and you go online to, you’re going to be entered into an opportunity to literally win bacon for the rest of your life.”


HOW MUCH OF RESTRICTOR PLATE IS RANDOMNESS OR HAS THAT CHANGED IN RECENT YEARS?  IF SO, WHY IS THAT?  “I think it has.  There’s an element of randomness just because you don’t know where the wreck is gonna happen.  You’ve seen guys ride around in the back and a wreck happens back there.  You’ve seen guys race and be aggressive and they wreck in the middle and you’ve seen guys leading the race side drafting each other or whatever and make a mistake and wreck in the front of the field, so the randomness really comes from you don’t know what or who or how the wreck is gonna be caused, and who it’s going to collect.  I think that’s where the randomness comes in, but the cars that are fast and the cars that are gonna run up front and the cars that are gonna challenge to lead laps and challenge to win the race, I think there is less randomness in that because we see it time and time again that the cars that are really fast and the cars that produce speed in the pack are the cars that are gonna run up front.  You know you’re gonna have to battle the Penske cars.  I think all four Stewart-Haas Racing cars have been good at the restrictor plates when you look back at the last several years.  Specifically for us with the 10 team, we had a shot to win the Daytona 500.  Our car was really fast.

“Kurt and Kevin ran up front most of the Daytona 500 and coming back here in the spring it was the same thing – a lot of our Stewart-Haas cars ran up front and challenged to lead laps – so I think when you look at the Stewart-Haas Racing cars, the Penske cars, the Gibbs cars will be good, the Hendrick cars have kind of been hit-and-miss over the last couple of years on restrictor plate racing, so you never know what they’ll bring to the race track, but I’m sure they’ll be fast.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  Like I said, I think the randomness comes in play with just who and how the wreck happens and who gets involved.”


HAVE YOU EVER WORKED WITH A SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST AND WOULD TALLADEGA BE A PLACE YOU’D WANT TO GET A TUNE-UP BEFORE?  “I’m scared to work with any sort of psychologist about what they would tell me about my brain.  I haven’t.  I throughout my career have gone and gone through spells where I look up motivational quotes and post them on my mirror in my bathroom at home so you see it every morning.  I’ve gone through times where different things to try and motivate yourself, but I’ve never worked with an actual sports psychologist.  I know some guys have and I know that’s big in the golfing community and I know it’s big in tennis and other individualized sports, but I have not.  I think coming into Talladega you do have to have the right mindset.  I think that is important, coming in here with the right frame of mind and being positive about it and begin excited.  I feel like you’re already beat if you come here thinking, ‘Oh man, why did I sign up to do this.  We’re just gonna wreck and this is ridiculous.  I hate restrictor plate racing.’  If you come in with that kind of mindset, I feel like you’re already beat, but, for me, I’ve had enough success here that I don’t come in with that mindset.  I come in with a mindset here of, ‘I can win this race.  We can come here and we can win and we’re gonna run up front and score stage points and we’re gonna have fast cars.’  Previous success, I feel like, always helps the mindset coming to different race tracks and, for me, Talladega is a place where I’ve had success.”


HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO GET OVER SUNDAY?  “I feel like obviously Sunday night was rough, pretty frustrated and just a bunch of emotions all at once just because you feel like you’re so close, and the same thing at Loudon, so close, and Chicago, so close, and having a fast car and not getting to Victory Lane and wanting it so bad.  I think that’s the worst part is like when you go into it with low expectations and you’re not a dominant car and then all of a sudden you pop up and you’re running up front and it gets taken away you’re like, ‘Yeah, well.  Shoot, we could have won that one.’  But when you’re like the dominant car and you’re leading laps and you’re running up front and you really feel like you’ve got a shot to win and it gets taken away, there’s a lot of emotions that go through that and just frustrated and mad and sad and angry and all of those things all at the same time.  I was upset Sunday night, some of Monday and by midday Monday I was already focused on Talladega.


“I’d already been on the phone several times with Johnny, my crew chief, and Tuesday morning got up and was at the shop bright and early at the shop and seeing the guys and once you see the guys and see that everybody else is over it and they’re already working on Talladega cars and Dover is over, and everybody is focused on making sure our Talladega car is prepared and ready and fast, your mindset just shifts and you can’t – like in this sport I think the only race you can really relive for any length of time is Homestead and then after that, because there’s not another race, but for us that’s one thing that’s kind of nice is whether you win, lose or draw by Tuesday you’re already focused on the next race, so, for me, that was the same.  By Tuesday morning we’re already focused on Talladega and talking about strategy, talking about the cars, talking about everything we need to do to get ready for this race and we’re only 10 points out.  I think we went to Richmond the second race the first round, I think we were seven points out and then we left Richmond 23 points to the good, so this could be a great weekend for us and could be just what we need to get out of here and whether we win or score a lot of points and put ourselves in good position to get ready to go to Kansas.”


HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU ONCE YOU WENT TO STEWART-HAAS RACING TO GET TO THE POINT WHERE EVERY TIME YOU WENT TO THE TRACK YOU KNEW YOU WERE DIALED IN AND HAD A SHOT?  “From the day that we made the announcement that I was gonna go there.  I think it’s evident.  Like as a race car driver all you can ask for is the car that you get in be the best, and when I worked on all my own stuff, my late models and all those things back home, that was what I strived for.  I worked until midnight, 2 a.m. almost every night during the week on my late model to make it the best that I knew how to make it and would get up the next morning and go to school and then do the same thing again that next night.  The guys that left their cars on the trailer from when they got home from the weekend before, took it out Friday, worked on it, cleaned it up and took it back to the track on Saturday, we whipped their butt because we were prepared and we had the best race cars and I put the work and the effort.  My grandfather obviously helped from the resource side of it and I feel like showing up to the race track with the best race car puts you at an advantage already and then the driver and the team have to go and do their part.  It’s very evident that Stewart-Haas Racing is probably one of the best, if not the best team in the garage area, so showing up there to the shop and seeing the amount of effort and resources and things that they have to make race cars go fast, I knew I was gonna show up to the race track every week with a car capable of winning and when you know that and you see it with your own eyes, you just get excited about going to the race track and you don’t even car what race track it is.  You know that every track that you go to you’re gonna have a fast race car and they’re gonna have the tools and the things that they need to make the cars fast and if they don’t, if you’re off one weekend, they know exactly what’s wrong, they know where to go find it, how to fix it and how to get it implemented into the cars as soon as possible.  As a race car driver, that’s a dream come true.”





About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.