In Final Full Nascar Cup Series Season, Aric Almirola Is Grateful For His Opportunities

Aric Almirola is known as a consistent driver in NASCAR, always putting his team in position to score a respectable finish.

As a surprise to many in the industry, Almirola announced in January that 2022 is his last full-time season in the Nascar Cup Series. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is one of the few drivers to say he has a partner that backs him for most of the year, with Smithfield sponsoring him since he scored a full-time ride at Richard Petty Motorsports in 2012.

“It’s like getting ready to jump off a tall structure, hooked to a bungee cord, or jumping out of an airplane,” Almirola said about retiring from full-time competition. “It’s terrifying and exciting, all at the same time.”

Almirola joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018, qualifying for the playoffs in every season since joining the team. His consistency on track, including three straight years of having 12-plus top 10s and picking up two wins in the No. 10 car, have led him to become a steady face in the sport.

But now that Almirola is departing from full-time competition, he’s changed his at-track mentality.

“This year, I’ve been more intentional about slowing down – not on the racetrack – and taking it all in to enjoy it,” Almirola said. “I’m embracing every moment of it, and it’s been one of the most fun seasons I’ve had in my entire career.”

While this season is a solid one for Almirola, with two top fives and five top 10s through 17 races, he hasn’t changed his mind about retiring. However, his future plans once the checkered flag at Phoenix Raceway flies in November are still unknown.

“I’ve also learned in life to never say never,” he said. “You don’t know what the future holds. For me, I made the decision and my family has supported me in that decision. I’m excited about whatever is next for me.

“I have no idea what is next. I have ideas and things I have aspirations to go do. Right now, I have nothing concrete.”

Prior to landing at Stewart-Haas Racing, Almirola developed a reputation as a driver who can get the most out of subpar equipment. He won his first Cup race with Richard Petty Motorsports in 2014, and had moments of brilliance with the legendary No. 43 team as it underwent major changes.

As someone who made headlines in his early 20s for being a major prospect with Joe Gibbs Racing, he adjusted to pressure immediately.

But throughout the journey, he never imagined he’d be working with major corporate partners or Hall of Famers like Richard Petty and Tony Stewart.

“To have owners like Richard Petty – the king of Nascar – believe in me and have me drive his famous [No.] 43 for six years was an awesome opportunity,” Almirola said. “It’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

“Then, to work for Tony Stewart, one of my heroes growing up and to have such a friendship with him when I moved to North Carolina, he took me under his wings. To have the opportunity to race for him at Stewart-Haas Racing has been fantastic. I have no doubt I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest imagination.”

Before Almirola retires from full-time racing, he’s learned to appreciate the nuances of the sport. Thanks to his partnership with ExxonMobilXOM
, he is explaining to fans everything that goes into getting a car to the racetrack.

Mission Unstoppable with Mobil Delvac talks about the influence they’ve had with our fleet,” Almirola said. “We can go longer between oil changes and the fleet is operating at its maximum potential. Our haulers go up and down the road 70,000 miles a year.

“If our transporter doesn’t make it to the racetrack, that’s a big problem. Mobil Delvac 1 has done a phenomenal job at keeping our fleet optimized and running at peak performance, making sure they can go longer without changing the oil.”

Gary Geissman, fleet manager for Stewart-Haas Racing, emphasized the importance of making sure cars get to the track.

“We’ve been using Mobil Delvac for over ten years in all our heavy-duty diesel trucks here at Stewart-Haas,” Geissman said. “In our fleet, we used to change the oil every 20,000 miles. We now change it every 70,000 miles – there’s less downtime for us, and a lot more time to chase the checkered flag.”

Almirola enters Road America 17th on the playoff grid, nine points below SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, who’s currently on the cutline.