1. Sports

Ask Aric Almirola: How’d your partnership with longtime sponsor Smithfield start?

Dealing with NASCAR sponsors hasn’t always been easy for the Hillsborough High alumnus.
Aric Almirola signs autographs after a practice session for the NASCAR cup series race at Michigan International Speedway, Friday, June 7, 2019, in Brooklyn, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Published Jun. 19

For all of the reasons why Tampa’s Aric Almirola has risen through NASCAR’s ranks to become a playoff contender at Cup power team Stewart-Haas Racing, one of the most important is also one of the easiest to overlook.

His sponsors.

The Hillsborough High alumnus has been working with meat processor Smithfield for eight years, which helps give him the financial backing to race for a top-12 team heading into Sunday’s race at Sonoma.

The Tampa Bay Times asked the driver of the No. 10 Ford about his partnership with Smithfield in Ask Aric — a periodic feature where the NASCAR playoff contender shares his thoughts on racing, the season and his hometown.

Smithfield has been one of your sponsors for a while. How did that relationship with them begin?

Smithfield and I are going on eight years of being together. That means a lot to me. That means that we have a true partnership. I think it’s something that I’ve worked very hard on. I learned the hard way when I was young coming up in the sport. I always just assumed that I was a race car driver. I just want to be the race car driver, drive the cars, and the teams will worry about the sponsors. I learned the hard way that without a sponsor, I don’t have a job.

I’ve totally shifted my mind-set on that. Many years ago, even before Smithfield, I made it a point to build and create relationships with the people that sponsor me and to not just view them as a company that puts stickers on my race car —to really view them as a sponsor and a company that I have a vested interest in helping them grow and do well, whether it be at retail or just business in general.

I need that company to succeed, and I need to do my part to help that company succeed in every way that I can to make sure that they’re getting the most value out of sponsors me as the driver and the race team that I’m racing for.

I think the fact that I’ve been with them for eight years points to the fact that I’m doing my part, that we’ve built a great relationship and that we enjoy working together, that they see value in me. And I work my butt off to try and ensure that I provide as much value as possible.


  1. Bucs linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) sacked San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) during the second quarter of the season opener at Raymond James Stadium. Barrett has all four of the team's sacks this season. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    With Jason Pierre-Paul injured, the Bucs needed a stalwart at outside linebacker. Barrett has provided that with four sacks in the team’s first two games.
  2. FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2014, file photo, Tim Tebow answers a question during a interview on the set of ESPN's new SEC Network in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File) NY161
    The former Florida Gators quarterback was passionate in his reasoning for why student-athletes shouldn’t make money. It didn’t sit well with many in the media, including other ESPN employees.
  3. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask (11) flips the ball in the air after running in for a touchdown during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. Florida won 29-21. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) TIMOTHY D. EASLEY  |  AP
    “In today’s college football world, people jump the gun,” coach Dan Mullen said. Trask never did.
  4. The Rays wrap up their series with the Angels today at picturesque Angel Stadium in Anaheim. MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tommy Pham is hitting leadoff as the Rays go with six righty hitters vs. Angels lefty Sandoval.
  5. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik briefly, on left, said he briefly feels the sting of last year's playoff disappointment. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Vinik sees growth of the team brand across the country and still wants an outdoor game in Tampa Bay.
  6. USF redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud warms up before Saturday night's game against South Carolina State. McCloud totaled five touchdowns in the Bulls' 55-16 triumph. SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times] SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The redshirt freshman’s five total touchdowns were the most by a Bulls first-time starter
  7. Florida running back Lamical Perine (2) attempts to break through an opening in the Kentucky defensive line during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) TIMOTHY D. EASLEY  |  AP
    The gap between UCF and UF is shrinking, at least on Matt Baker’s AP ballot.
  8. Because of Derrius Guice's knee injury, Chris Thompson is likely to see his role in Washington's backfield increase. STEPHEN B. MORTON  |  Associated Press
    Matthew Stafford, Chris Thompson and Mecole Hardman are free agents that are worth a spot on your roster.
  9. Kentucky tight end Keaton Upshaw (88) makes a catch over the defense of Florida defensive back Brad Stewart for a touchdown during the second half. TIMOTHY D. EASLEY  |  AP
    Kentucky’s fancy facilities are obvious, even from the outside on game day
  10. Second-year Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, a No. 1 pick, greets fans before Miami gets routed by the Ravens in the season opener. BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    If a promising young talent bails on an already-rebuilding team, repercussions won’t be good.