NASCAR driver Aric Almirola announced on Saturday that he is retiring. While he didn’t use the word retire, he just said that he won’t return to Stewart-Hass Racing; there is now a car that needs a driver.
Almirola was going to retire after the season last year but came back this year because his sponsor, Smithfield Foods, asked him to return. Aric joins Kevin Harvick on the very short list of drivers who are retiring this year. The retired announcement comes with just two races left in the season. I believe this is the latest in a season that a driver has announced that he won’t be back the next year. Why did Almirola wait until now to decide to retire? Maybe we should force Almirola to race the full Cup Series season next year since his retirement announcement came late.
“It’s been great,” Almirola said Saturday before Cup Series practice and qualifying at Martinsville Speedway, the site of Sunday’s Xfinity 500. “Obviously, as a race car driver and as a competitor, you always want more. I would have loved to have won more races and won a championship. That’s what I went over there for. I have won some races, so I’m proud of that, and we’ve had a lot of success, but I think at the end of the day that’s temporary. The friendships that I’ve made. The relationships that I’ve made, all of that will last forever, and I’m grateful for that. I really am. I’m very grateful for the six years that I’ve shown up to work every day there, and they treat me like family. I feel extremely close to all of the employees over there, and they brought me in with welcoming arms when I showed up in 2018, and it has been a really fun ride ever since.”
Almirola has driven the 10-car for Stewart-Hass Racing since 2018. He has three wins, and his best points finish is fifth, which happened in 2018. Aric also has four Xfinity Series wins and two wins in the Truck Series. This season, Almirola has one top-five and four top-tens, did make the playoffs, and is currently 22nd in the standings.
“I’m proud of everything Aric has accomplished and am especially proud that his last six years have been with Stewart-Haas Racing,” Stewart-Hass Racing owner Tony Stewart said in the team statement. “He and Smithfield formed an incredible partnership that resonated on and off the race track, and a lot of that is a testament to Aric. He always puts forth maximum effort, and he makes everyone around him better. Simply put, he’s a great person – an awesome dad to Alex and Abby and an exceptional husband to Janice. I know all of them really well and am genuinely happy for their next steps together as a family. Smithfield has been an outstanding partner and a NASCAR staple for more than a decade. Their platform with Aric was a model for the sport, and it was an honor to represent them.”
Stewart said that the team will have four Cup Series teams next year. So, who will replace Almirola in the 10-car next year? Noah Gragson is the favorite to land the ride, according to Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports. Gragson was suspended in August for liking an offensive social media post. He has been reinstated and is looking for a team after parting ways with Legacy Motor Club.
Gragson would be a good choice for Almirola’s replacement. He is a young driver who hasn't shown how good of a racer he is yet. Going to the 10-car would give Gragson the opportunity to show how good he is. SHR is a good team, so that he would be in good equipment.
If not Gragson, then SHR has Cole Custer, who is trying to race for a championship in the Xfinity Series, who they could bring up and put in the 10-car.
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)