The Hispanic community continues to grow and continues to integrate itself in American traditions and pastimes, including in the world of professional sports.
We hear of Hispanic athletes being recognized and celebrated within the NBA, MLB and even recently the NFL. But letâ€™s 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 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?Â Whatâ€™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?
- Thatâ€™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?
- Â Because of what we do is very routine anyway, I donâ€™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 youâ€™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?Â If so, what are some things you do to ensure they are familiar with their Hispanic roots?
- I think that itâ€™s important that they know about it. We havenâ€™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.
Pressed Cubano Sandwich
low-carb panini bread
2 tbsp mayonnaise
12 oz thinly sliced cooked Smithfield Marinated Pork Tenderloin
1/2 lb Swiss cheese
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
12 oz Smithfield Deli Thins Cooked Ham
Thinly sliced dill pickles
2 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil for Panini press
Preheat oven to 425Â°F. Rub a small roasting pan with oil and place tenderloin in it. Bake tenderloin 20 minutes per pound until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 145Â°F. Allow tenderloin to rest for 5 minutes prior to slicing.
Preheat panini press to medium high.
Cut panini bread into 4-inch squares. Cut each square horizontally through the middle to make two square slices.
In a small bowl, mix the mustard and mayonnaise. Spread one slice of each sandwich square with the mixture.
Divide sliced ham and sliced pork tenderloin between sandwich squares. Top with pickles and Swiss cheese.
Brush panini press with melted butter or oil. Place sandwiches onto press and close lid. Cook until bread is golden brown and has grill marks and cheese is melted, about 5 to 7
minutes. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.
Makes 6 servings.