Only Hispanic Driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
The Hispanic community continues to grow and integrate itself in American traditions and pastimes, including in the world of professional sports such as NASCAR.
We hear of Hispanic athletes being recognized and celebrated within the NBA, MLB and even recently the NFL. But lets spotlight one of our own on the racetrack! Aric Almirola is currently the only Hispanic driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and some of his recent big wins include the 2014 Coke Zero 400 in Daytona. Almirola currently drives the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford Fusion sponsored by Smithfield.
Growing up in Tampa, Florida and being of Cuban descent Almirola has always been proud of his Hispanic roots. He is a well-respected figure in the world of professional racecar driving, reminding us that the Hispanic community can achieve anything with hard work and dedication.
Below is a Q & A by Silvana Camargo with Aric Almirola about his Latin pride and career in NASCAR.
How does it feel to represent the Hispanic community in your profession, particularly the Sprint Cup Series?
- It makes me proud to represent the Hispanic community in NASCAR. I feel like NASCAR is and always has been the All-American sport, and the Hispanic community is a big part of America.
Do you consider yourself a role model for young Hispanics? What’s one piece of advice you could share with the next generation of Hispanics?
- I do consider myself a role model. I think for me the biggest thing that I realized growing up in a Hispanic community in Florida is that my family had to work very hard for everything they got and so did the people we called our neighbors. Watching both sides of my family work as hard as they did to achieve what they have been able to achieve showed me that if I wanted something bad enough I had to work hard for it.
Based on your own experience, how could someone interested in the sport become a professional racecar driver and be able to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series?
- That’s where our sport is very different than any other sport. Any child that wants to play a stick and ball sport can go out to a local rec facility and pick up a $25 glove and go play baseball. But with racing, it is very expensive even at a young age. I was very fortunate to have a family willing to make that investment for me to go race.
What is your typical ritual the morning of a big race to help you prepare yourself mentally and physically?
- Because of what we do is very routine anyway, I don’t necessarily have a ritual, but my weekends, especially race day, tend to be very predictable. I wake up and eat a good breakfast, usually something Smithfield like ham and eggs or bacon and eggs. Then, I go to appearances for sponsors, then the drivers meeting, and then I eat a good pre-race meal. After that, I go do the pre-race festivities, and then strap in my racecar.
What is your favorite Cuban dish you enjoyed growing up that you still look forward to having? Is there one dish in particular that you’ve mastered?
- My favorite Cuban dish is piccadillo, which is ground pork mixed with potatoes, raisins, a lot of seasoning and rice.
Is it important that your children connect with your Cuban heritage? If so, what are some things you do to ensure they are familiar with their Hispanic roots?
- I think that it’s important that they know about it. We haven’t forced the heritage or the language on them. They are still young, but as they grow up, I certainly want them to know and understand where their family is from.