Originally written on Start 'N' Park Blog  |  Last updated 11/2/14

LAS VEGAS - SEPTEMBER 26: Aric Almirola, driver of the #51 Miccosukee Resort Toyota stands during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 26, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

CONCORD, N.C. – Aric Almirola hopes to be in the starting line-up for two races on Saturday night. The Sprint Showdown is already on his schedule. He hopes the Sprint All-Star race will be a late add.

Almirola and his No. 43 team will bring their Smithfield Ford Fusion and its new black-and-blue paint scheme to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for Saturday night’s Showdown – the 40-lap exhibition event in which the top two finishers advance to the All-Star Race that immediately follows. The winner of an online fan vote will also advance to the All-Star event. Almirola has spent time in the top-10 of the online vote and can still garner votes through 5 p.m. ET Saturday at http://nas.cr/a32m.

The weekend marks Almirola’s first appearance in the annual Showdown. But he’s no stranger to the 1.5-mile oval that’s regarded as the home track to most NASCAR teams. He has a top-five and three top-10s in seven Nationwide Series starts and two top-10s in two Camping World Truck Series appearances at Charlotte.

Continuing race activities in Charlotte next week, Richard Petty Motorsports will host its third annual Fan Appreciation Day on Thursday, May 24, from 7 a.m. to noon at the RPM shop in Concord, N.C. The first 200 fans in line who donate a nonperishable food item to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina will receive a commemorative ticket allowing them access to the shop and an autograph session with Almirola, Marcos Ambrose, Michael Annett and Richard Petty. Other activities include a Q-and-A session with the RPM drivers and Richard Petty hosted by Miss Sprint Cup, raffles, give-a-ways and free food.

Comments from Smithfield Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola: “I’m really excited to run in my first Showdown. You’re just going for broke because you want to be one of those top two guys at the end so you can advance to the All-Star race. You don’t get anything for third or fourth or anything after. And it’s only 40 laps, so it’s definitely more of a sprint than a marathon. You can throw some strategy in, deciding whether or not to pit at the break, and Mike Ford and I will talk about that. But all in all, it’s just one of those events where you’re only goal is to finish up front.

“Of course, if we don’t advance by finishing first or second, I hope I can get a spot through the fan vote. I’m really proud that my fans have had me in the top-10 in the vote this year. And it’s not too late to keep voting. There’s no limit to how many times you can vote, so keep clicking away on my name. I would be extremely proud to put our Smithfield Ford Fusion in the All-Star line-up either way.”

Comments from Crew Chief Mike Ford on the All-Star Race: “I’ve watched the Showdown every year and, I’ll tell you, it’s very competitive. Some might have the wrong idea that it’s an easier race because it’s only half the regular field, but that’s not the case at all. Guys take it very seriously – almost more so than a points race because it’s strictly for bragging rights and to move on to the All-Star race afterward.

“This weekend will be very important for us. It’ll be Aric’s first time at Charlotte in a Cup car and it leads into the Coke 600 next week, so it’ll be important for us to get a handle on what we have and I think we’ll get that handle pretty quick.”

Chassis History: The team will race chassis number 752. The team raced this car at Fontana and Kansas this season.

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