The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway this weekend and Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Valley Tech Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) are ready to rebuild their momentum heading into the middle stretch of the 36-race season.
Last weekend at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Almirola looked strong by qualifying second, but by the time the checkered flag waved, the No. 10 team ran outside of the top-10 for a majority of the race and pulled it together at the end for an 11th-place finish. The Valley Tech team started the season with six consecutive top-10s, but bad luck hampered its efforts after Almirola was wrecked on lap two at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway last month. After his 11th-place finish at Charlotte Sunday night, he looks to reset his streak starting this weekend at Pocono.
“We just couldn’t get going on restarts at Charlotte, but we were able to make up a lot of ground on the long runs,” Almirola said. “Our team worked extremely hard to try and get us better, but we just didn’t have it. After starting the season so strong and falling off for a while – some things not of our own fault and some of our own doing – I’m hoping to get going again this weekend at Pocono in the middle of our season as we prepare for the playoffs.”
The 35-year-old will make his 14th Cup Series start at Pocono’s “Tricky Triangle.” Almirola has competed in the Cup Series at the three-turn track since 2012. His top-10 finish June 13, 2018 was his first there. The Valley Tech driver has led two laps at the Pennsylvania track.
“Pocono is such a challenging track with three different turns. With this new package, you have to go into the weekend with an open mind. That’s what I did last year with a new team and I was able to bring home my first top-10 at Pocono. I really don’t know what to expect from what the cars are going to do. Our No. 10 Ford team has been great at adapting to new challenges in the past. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Almirola’s crew chief Johnny Klausmeier is in his second season as the leader of a Cup Series crew. However, he has earned a Cup Series victory, coming in June 2016 at Pocono while Klausmeier, then lead engineer on SHR’s No. 41 Ford Fusion driven by Kurt Busch, substituted for crew chief Tony Gibson.
Valley Tech joins SHR for the first of two races this season in hopes of riding Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Mustang to victory lane this weekend. Valley Tech Learning partners with companies, educational institutions, and municipalities to provide always- on, on-demand interactive instruction for the most in-demand technical skills for today’s marketplace. Through a unique, highly accessible platform designed to more effectively upskill current employees and future workforce members, Valley Tech enables communities to become more competitive and serve all who aspire to learn and succeed in today’s knowledge economy.
Almirola has always valued the importance of an education, even as he worked his way toward the pinnacle of North American motorsports. As Almirola graduated from competing in the World Karting Association to open-wheel Modifieds to Late Model stock cars, he attended the University of Central Florida, where he studied for a degree in mechanical engineering. But after two years there, Almirola earned an opportunity with Joe Gibbs Racing that ultimately led him to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“My parents and grandparents instilled in me the value of an education,” he said. “In order to go racing, I had to perform in school, and that included college. I continue to use what I learned in high school and at UCF to this day. Racing is a detail industry where knowledge is power. I can’t thank all of my teachers and professors enough. Between them and my family, they gave me the tools to succeed.”
In 13 Cup Series starts this year, Almirola has accrued an average start of 11.9 and an average finish of 14.1. He has also earned one pole, a top-five finish, seven top-10s and has led 99 laps this season in his bid for the Cup Series championship.
He is currently 12th in the championship standings, 168 points behind first-place Kyle Busch and 10 points behind his 11th-place SHR teammate Clint Bowyer.