April 5, 2018

FORT WORTH, Texas (April 5, 2018) – The following is an event recap with photo and video links from visits Thursday by Monster Energy Series NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola to a pair of Dallas/Fort Worth elementary schools and crown this year’s Lionel Racing “Design A Die-Cast” champions.

Event Recap

Aric Almirola spent his day Thursday impacting more than 1,000 students between two Dallas/Fort Worth elementary schools that was highlighted by the crowning of the winners of the Lionel Racing “Design A Die-Cast” contest among the 21 elementary schools and 12,o61 students participating in Texas Motor Speedway’s Speeding To Read program.

Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart–Haas Racing, opened the morning in fashion with his first stop coming at the home of the defending Speeding To Read co-champions, B.B. Owen Elementary in The Colony. He was treated to a police escort followed by a hero’s welcome at the elementary school entrance that featured The Colony High School drum line and cheerleaders.

Almirola, along with Lionel Racing’s Director of e-Commerce Thomas DeBoyace, presented to the design winner in the Kindergarten-2nd Grade Division, second-grader Mariyah Wortman. He surprised her with a Lionel Racing 1:24-scale die-cast featuring her paint scheme that was a tribute to the bravery of firefighters.

Principal Jennifer Spitzer also surprised Wortman by having The Colony Fire Department on hand to meet her and join them for a photo on stage. Almirola then revealed that his father was a veteran firefighter so the paint scheme had special meaning to him as well.

“I like the big red truck and how they help people,” Wortman said of fire fighters. “Last year (in the contest), I saw other fifth graders drawing a fire car and I thought it was cool.”

He also had a Q&A with students and took part with a student pit crew in a NASCAR trivia competition, which they won handily.

Then it was off to Fort Worth, where he headed 41 miles southwest to Diamond Hill Elementary to crown the 3rd-5th Grade Division champ of the die-cast competition. Almirola also received a rousing welcome at Diamond Hill, with a line of student bucket drummers, elementary school cheerleaders and the halls lined with students with noise makers and signs for him.

He answered questions from students on racing to education and shared the story of his father’s journey from Cuba to the United States in the 1960s to give the Almirola family a better life. His heritage resonated with the students in the assembly, with Diamond Hill’s student body being 95 percent Hispanic.

He then presented fifth-grader Alondra Villa with her die-cast showcasing her winning patriotic paint scheme.

Almirola also presented both students with four tickets to Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway and a Smithfield Piggy cord backpack that included a $400 coupon booklet for free Smithfield bacon for a year, No. 10 hat signed by Almirola and various Smithfield items such as a sandwich container, drink cup, pen notepad, key chain, etc.

Almirola also rewarded the top readers at each school with signed hero cards.

The Highlight

Villa’s explanation of her winning design – both in her essay that accompanied the paint scheme and on stage – was an emotional moment for many and highlighted the two visits, especially for Almirola. Her design featured an American flag in the car numbers, which she said she used to show her love for her country.

Next to the number was a peace sign, which she incorporated because what she wants most is peace in the world.

She put an eagle on the hood because it represented her school mascot and her country, both of which she is very proud. Then she shared a few personal stories on the design, including using the blue for the primary color because that was the color of the room of a brother she had lost before she was born.

She was inspired to produce the paint scheme not intent on winning, but for her 15-year-old brother Sergio, who loves cars and whom she loves affectionately as a sibling. She plans to give him the car.

“I wasn’t focused on winning because actually winning is not the only thing in your life,” Villa said. “You just need to try your best on it.”

“You going into it with that attitude I think makes you so special and makes you that much more deserving of winning this because you did it just from your heart,” Almirola told her. “You did it because it was something you believed in. You have so much story behind it on why you did it the way you did it and I think that came across to everyone at Lionel and Texas Motor Speedway.”

Villa’s design also was selected as the overall winner among the top designs and it earns the special recognition of being included in Lionel Racing’s 1:64-scale NASCAR die-cast collection line that will come out at a later date.

Almirola was so impressed with the meaning behind the paint scheme that he told Villa that he plans to buy the car when it comes out in the new Lionel Racing die-cast line for his two children, Alex and Abby.

What They Are Saying

“To leave a lasting impact like this for Alondra and what Texas Motor Speedway does and what Lionel does with the Speeding To Read program, it’s incredible. I’m just the lucky guy to be part of it, but it’s such a cool thing to encourage kids to read.” – Almirola on having the opportunity to be involved in community events.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for me and selfishly I feel I get as much or more out of it than the kids do because I get to come and interact with the community that we race in. It’s great to have these unique opportunities to come in and give back to the communities that we race in and be able to have an impact in the lives of the people around the community where we come into to put on a show.” – Almirola on the school visits.

“Unfortunately they don’t pay me as well if I don’t win, but you are right and I try and tell my kids (Alex and Abby) the same thing.” – Almirola joked with Villa after she said that winning isn’t everything in life.

“I hope that Aric Almirola wins,” – Wortman when asked what she hopes to see at Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 after finding out she won tickets for her and her family to the race.

Fast Fact

B.B. Owen and Diamond Hill are among the 21 elementary schools and 12,061 students competing in this year’s Speeding To Read program. The Lionel “Design A Die-Cast” competition is exclusive to these schools and has been an added benefit to the program the past four years to give students an avenue to showcase their artistic talents. The program-record number of schools and students continue to show their prowess for reading, combining to already read 1,062,502 books with a month remaining in the 2017-18 competition. Since the program began with one school in 2011, the 64 schools that have participated have read more than 4.7 million books.

Photo & Video Links

Click to view and/or download photos and video from the event.