The first round of the 2020 NASCAR playoffs comes to a close on Saturday night, ending the championship dreams of four drivers. Aric Almirola, the man behind the wheel of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang, currently sits seven points above the cutoff line. Reaching the second round is not guaranteed heading into the Bass Pro Shops Night Race. However, Almirola feels that his car is capable of a top-five finish.
Speaking exclusively with PopCulture.com, Almirola reflected on his consistent 2020 campaign. He hasn't won a race yet, but Almirola has secured 16 top-10 finishes and five top-fives. Finding success consistently is easier said than done, but Almirola said that his team plays a huge role. Stewart-Haas puts together strong cars and then keeps them in tip-top shape every single week.
"I've got an incredible organization that has just done an amazing job with preparing the race cars this year," Almirola told PopCulture. "We're showing up to every single event with no practice now. And because of it, it creates a lot of challenges. You really depend on the team, the organization, the shop, all the people preparing the race cars to go to the racetrack, to have everything perfect. And I feel like our organization has done exactly that.
"We've done a great job with showing up to the racetrack with cars ready to go race and that are fast," Almirola continued. "[...] I think my new crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz, and myself working together, just all of those things have added up to us having a lot of success this year." As evidence of this success, Almirola's fellow drivers listed him as the "dark horse" to make some noise prior to the start of the playoffs.
If Almirola finishes well on Saturday night, he will move forward to the second round of the playoffs with 11 other drivers. If not, he will continue participating in races while focusing on the 2021 season. Unlike other drivers, Almirola knows where he will race after agreeing to rejoin Stewart-Haas for another season. He also extended his partnership with Smithfield Foods, keeping a 10-year relationship alive.
"I'm ecstatic about the opportunity that lies ahead to continue to race with Stewart-Haas racing and to continue to represent that partnership with Smithfield Foods," Almirola said. "They have been an incredible partner for me. They've done so much for me, not only professionally, but personally. My wife and my kids and myself feel like part of the Smithfield family and they have been a great partner for us and I just genuinely joy representing their company."0comments
During this partnership, Almirola has driven a memorable car in the "Vote For Bacon" Ford Mustang, which brought entertainment to several racing fans during a politically-charged time. He also showcased his daily life outside of his stock car through a YouTube series, Beyond the 10. This relatively-new video series shows Almirola as a husband, father and business partner. He also provides a glimpse into his fitness while answering unique questions about whether pineapple belongs on pizza.
"At first I was a little bit hesitant and skeptical of letting a videographer into our private life, but it's been good," Almirola said. "We've gotten a lot of great response from the fans and our YouTube series has really taken off in the last six months to nine months. We've had a lot of new subscribers and a lot of people paying attention and watching."