Aric Almirola surprises Army family with shopping spree, VIP treatment at Texas

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It’s not every day you run into a NASCAR driver at the grocery store, and then he surprises your family with an all-expenses paid shopping spree.

That’s what happened Friday morning as Army Sergeant Ralph Harroff and his family were preparing to go shopping at their local Kroger store in Fort Worth, Texas.

All of a sudden, Richard Petty Motorsports Sprint Cup driver Aric Almirola raced through the parking lot, jumped out of the famed No. 43, and made a beeline to the startled Harroff family.

From there, Almirola escorted the Harroff’s to the meats aisle, where a special grill cooking smoked sausage was waiting.

Almirola then loaded a number of Eckrich products into a shopping cart, and then accompanied the Harroff’s throughout the store for more food essentials.

Not only did Eckrich foot the bill, along with another $430 in Kroger gift cards for future shopping use, Almirola presented the family with authentic racing crew uniforms and invited them to be his special guests at Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

The family will watch the race from atop the RPM pit box.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Sgt. Harroff, who was injured in action in Afghanistan in 2009 and endured a long recovery that was trying on both himself and his family. “It’s something that I’ll never forget. … To have Eckrich and Aric Almirola give us a shopping spree for my family, and to invite us to be a part of the race team this weekend, it means a lot. There are so many deserving military families, I just feel lucky to be honored like this.”

The promotion was park of Eckrich’s “Operation Inspiration” program that supports and honors military families.

“This is really what ‘Operation Inspiration’ is all about,” said Charles Gitkin, vice president for the John Morrell Food Group. “We heard the story of Army Sgt. Ralph Harroff and his family. It’s families like these that inspire us to honor and assist them, and give them an experience they will never forget.”

Added Almirola, “This is a family that I can really relate with. Growing up in a military family, and now being a father myself, I can understand the sacrifices the Harroff family has made. It makes me feel good that I can work with Eckrich to help honor and give back to military families. I know we put a smile on their faces today.”

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F1 2017 driver review: Kimi Raikkonen

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Kimi Raikkonen

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 7
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 7
Best Finish: P2 (Monaco, Hungary)
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 2
Points: 205
Laps Led: 40
Championship Position: 4th

While this may have statistically been Kimi Raikkonen’s best campaign since his first year back in F1 in 2012, there is a good case for it being one of his most disappointing to date.

Raikkonen’s continued role at Ferrari has been questioned on a number of occasions, but the Finn looked capable of answering his critics heading into 2017 after impressing through pre-season testing as he appeared to get to grips well with the new-style cars.

But we soon grew accustomed to the same old story: flashes of potential, but otherwise an underwhelming, unsatisfactory campaign that saw Raikkonen be dwarfed by his teammate, Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen’s charge to his first pole position for over eight years in Monaco gave hope of a popular win, only for Ferrari to play its strategy in favor of title contender Vettel – why wouldn’t the team do so? – to leave him a disgruntled second.

While Vettel was able to impress at the majority of circuits, Raikkonen only looked strong at tracks that were unquestionably ‘Ferrari’ tracks, such as Hungary and Brazil. Like Vettel, Raikkonen should have racked up a good haul of points in Singapore, only for the start-line crash to sideline both Ferraris before they even reached Turn 1.

Again there is the question of ‘what could have been?’ in Malaysia had it not been for the spark plug issue on the grid, yet in Japan, Raikkonen was nowhere, finishing behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls.

Finishing just five points clear of Daniel Ricciardo despite having a much faster car for the best part of the season and the Red Bull driver’s own reliability issues sums up the disappointment of Raikkonen’s campaign.

He should have been an ally for Vettel in the title race by nicking points of Lewis Hamilton, much as Valtteri Bottas was doing for his Mercedes teammate. Instead, Raikkonen seemed to be tagging along for the best part of this season.

Season High: Pole in Monaco, his first since the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Season Low: Finishing a distant P4 at Spa – a circuit he made his own in the 2000s.