Like many professional athletes, Tampa’s Aric Almirola sticks to his routine on competition days.His pre-race routine, unfortunately, was one of the only things he got to do last week, when an early crash knocked him out and ended his career-best run of six straight top 10s. The Hillsborough High alumnus enters Saturday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond sitting ninth in place.With little else to focus on from last week, the Tampa Bay Times asked the driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford about his pre-race activities in Ask Aric — a periodic feature where the NASCAR playoff contender shares his thoughts on racing, the season and his hometown. What is that pre-race ritual? What else do you do before every race? I don’t know if I’d call it a ritual as much as I would call it a routine. But I certainly have a pre-race routine that is very consistent from week to week. It all starts with getting up in the morning and having a good breakfast – ham and eggs, bacon and eggs, some toast. A good, big breakfast to get me started. Then a lot of my media and hospitality for sponsors stuff starts. That usually lasts an hour to an hour and a half leading into the drivers’ meeting.Once the drivers’ meeting happens, I typically am very, very regimented on not doing any media or sponsor appearances between the drivers’ meeting and driver introductions. There’s typically about one hour in that time slot. I use that time slot kind of to be by myself, eat a good lunch and then just really have some quiet time because race days are so much hustle and bustle and very bust, and just the atmosphere is amped up because it’s race day. That time to sit down and eat lunch and some peace and quiet in my motorhome and have some alone time is pretty routine for me.Then we typically go out to driver introductions one hour before the start of the race. That is all very routine. I go through that process, and then when I get to the car, we typically have different sponsors that come to the car and are able to take some pictures with me next to the car. From that point, getting into the race car to once the national anthem’s over and we’re getting ready for the race, that part is very much routine, as well.I climb into the car. I typically put my belts on in a very routine, systematic way. You can call it a ritual, if that’s what it is, but I feel like it’s more just like a checklist, because I’ve been doing it the same way for years. I put my belts on the exact same way and in the same order. When I’m done putting my belts on, I put my HANS device on under my shoulder harnesses, put my earplugs then, then put my helmet on. Then when I get my helmet all strapped on and connected to my HANS, I get the steering wheel on, make sure the steering wheel goes on perfectly, then put my gloves on. My interior guy helps me get my net up, then I’m ready to race.That is all very, very routine and systematic. I feel like it’s an airline pilot that’s getting ready to fly an airplane. They go through a systematic checklist to ensure that everything is done properly and safe. I am that way, also. Plus I’m that way, just generally in life. I’m a very routine person. I like flying by the seat of my pants on many things in life, but in certain areas, I like things very, very routine in that way. I know what to expect, and I know it’s done the way I want it to be done. There’s less opportunities – especially when getting in the race car and getting buckled in and all those things pre-race – it allows me to be more focused on the race, because everything else is kind of on autopilot from the time I wake up, and what I’m going to eat for breakfast, typically some ham and eggs, scrambled, with some toast — Smithfield, of course. Maybe even have a couple strips of bacon. Then all of the morning meetings and all of those things are very routine. It allows me, like I said, to be on autopilot. I know what to expect. I’m not really having to think too much about anything else but the race ahead.